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CORNELL 

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John  Brown,  1800-1859: 

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JOHN  BROWN 


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(/y^4riA^     U/hen-:rn^ 


JOHN  BROWN 

1800 — 1859 
91 3Siograpf)^  jfift^  featfi  ^fter 

BY 

OSWALD  GARRISON  VILLARD 

A.M.,  LiTT.D. 
WITH   ILLUSTRATIONS 


BOSTON   AND    NEW    YORK 

HOUGHTON   MIFFLIN   COMPANY 

Cbe  EttierBtlie  preaa  CambrtBp 

1910 


COPYRIGHT,   1910,   BY  OSWALD  GARRISON  VILLARD 


ALL   RIGHTS   RESERVED 


Published  October  iqio 


TO  THE   MEMORY  OF 

MY   BELOVED   AND    HIGH-MINDED   FATHER 

HENRY  VILLARD 


PREFACE 

"There  never  was  more  need  for  a  good  life  of  any  man 
than  there  was  for  one  of  John  Brown,"  wrote  Charles  Eliot 
Norton  in  March,  i860,  in  expressing  in  the  Atlantic  Monthly 
his  dissatisfaction  with  the  first  biography  of  the  leader  of 
the  attack  upon  Harper's  Ferry.  Twenty-six  years  later,  in 
the  same  publication,  Mr.  John  T.  Morse,  Jr.,  wrote  that  "so 
grand  a  subject  cannot  fail  to  inspire  a  writer  able  to  do  jus- 
tice to  the  theme;  and  when  such  an  one  draws  Brown,  he 
will  produce  one  of  the  most  attractive  books  in  the  lan- 
guage. But  meantime  the  ill-starred  'martyr'  suffers  a  pro- 
longation of  martyrdom,  standing  like  another  St.  Sebastian 
to  be  riddled  with  the  odious  arrows  of  fulsome  panegyrists." 
Since  1886  there  have  appeared  five  other  lives  of  Brown,  the 
most  important  being  that  of  Richard  J.  Hinton,  who  in  his 
preface  gloried  in  holding  a  brief  for  Brown  and  his  men. 

The  present  volume  is  inspired  by  no  such  purpose,  but  is 
due  to  a  belief  that  fifty  years  after  the  Harper's  Ferry  tragedy, 
the  time  is  ripe  for  a  study  of  John  Brown,  free  from  bias, 
from  the  errors  in  taste  and  fact  of  the  mere  panegyrist,  and 
from  the  blind  prejudice  of  those  who  can  see  in  John  Brown 
nothing  but  a  criminal.  The  pages  that  follow  were  written 
to  detract  from  or  champion  no  man  or  set  of  men,  but  to  put 
forth  the  essential  truths  of  history  as  far  as  ascertainable, 
and  to  judge  Brown,  his  followers  and  associates  in  the  light 
thereof.  How  successful  this  attempt  has  been  is  for  the 
reader  to  judge.  That  this  volume  in  nowise  approaches  the 
attractiveness  which  Mr.  Morse  looked  for,  the  author  fully 
understands.  On  the  other  hand,  no  stone  has  been  left  un- 
turned to  make  accurate  the  smallest  detail ;  the  original  docu- 
ments, contemporary  letters  and  living  witnesses  have  been 
examined  in  every  quarter  of  the  United  States.  Materials 
never  before  utilized  have  been  drawn  upon,  and  others  dis- 
covered whose  existence  has  heretofore  been  unknown.  Wher- 
ever sources  have  been  quoted,  they  have  been  cited  verbatim 
et  literatim,  the  effort  being  to  reproduce  exactly  spelling, 


viii  PREFACE 

capitalization  and  punctuation,  particularly  in  John  Brown's 
own  letters,  which  have  suffered  hitherto  from  free-hand 
editing.  If  at  times,  particularly  in  dealing  with  the  Kansas 
period  of  John  Brown's  life,  it  may  seem  as  if  there  were  a 
superfluity  of  detail,  the  explanation  is  that  already  a  hun- 
dred myths  have  attached  themselves  to  John  Brown's  name 
which  often  hinge  upon  a  date,  or  the  possibility  of  his  pre- 
sence at  a  given  place  at  a  given  hour.  Over  some  of  them  have 
raged  long  and  bitter  controversies  which  give  little  evidence 
of  the  softening  effects  of  time. 

So  complex  a  character  as  John  Brown's  is  not  to  be  dis- 
missed by  merely  likening  him  to  the  Hebrew  prophets  or  to 
a  Cromwellian  Roundhead,  though  both  parallels  are  not 
inapt;  and  the  historian's  task  is  made  heavier  since  nearly 
all  characterizations  of  the  man  have  been  at  one  extreme  or 
another.  But  there  is,  after  all,  no  personality  so  complex  that 
it  cannot  be  tested  by  accepted  ethical  standards.  To  do  this 
sincerely,  to  pass  a  deliberate  and  accurate  historical  judg- 
ment, to  bestow  praise  and  blame  without  favor  or  sectional 
partisanship,  has  been  the  author's  endeavor. 

His  efforts  have  been  generously  aided  by  the  friends,  rela- 
tives and  associates  of  John  Brown,  whenever  approached, 
and  by  many  others  who  pay  tribute,  by  their  deep  interest, 
to  the  vital  force  of  John  Brown's  story.  It  would  be  impos- 
sible to  mention  all  here.  But  to  Salmon  Brown  and  Henry 
Thompson  is  due  the  writer's  ability  to  record  for  the  first 
time  the  exact  facts  as  to  the  happenings  on  the  Pottawatomie, 
and  the  author  is  also  particularly  indebted  to  Jason  Brown, 
Miss  Sarah  Brown,  Mrs.  Annie  Brown  Adams,  and  Mrs. 
John  Brown,  Jr.  Thomas  Wentworth  Higginson,  F.  B.  San- 
born, Horace  White,  George  B.  Gill,  Luke  F.  Parsons,  Mrs. 
Emma  Wattles  Morse,  Mrs.  Rebecca  Spring,  Jennie  Dunbar 
(Mrs.  Lee  Garcelon)  and  R.  G.  Elliott,  of  Lawrence,  are  a  few 
of  the  survivors  of  John  Brown's  time  who  have  aided  by 
counsel  or  reminiscence.  Special  thanks  are  due  to  George 
W.  Martin,  Miss  Adams  and  Miss  Clara  Francis,  of  the  Kan- 
sas Historical  Society,  for  valuable  assistance,  as  well  as  to 
the  Historical  Department  of  Iowa,  the  Western  Reserve 
Historical  Society,  the  Department  of  Archives  and  History 
of  the  Virginia  State  Library,  the  Pennsylvania  and  Massa- 


PREFACE 


IX 


chusetts  Historical  Societies,  and  to  Louis  A.  Reese,  lately  of 
Brown  University,  who  generously  placed  at  the  author's 
disposal  the  manuscript  of  his  admirable  work  on  "The  Ad- 
mission of  Kansas  as  a  State."  Mrs.  S.  L.  Clark,  of  Berea, 
Kentucky,  Mrs.  S.  C.  Davis,  of  Kalamazoo,  Miss  Leah  Talia- 
ferro, of  Gloucester  County,  Virginia,  Miss  Mary  E.  Thomp- 
son, Mrs.  Ellen  Brown  Fablinger,  Mrs.  J.  B.  Remington,  of 
Osawatomie,  Kansas,  Dr.  Thaddeus  Hyatt,  the  family  of  the 
late  Joshua  R.  Giddings,  Dr.  Frederick  C.  Waite,  of  Western 
Reserve  University,  Dr.  Henry  A.  Stevens,  of  Boston,  Cleon 
Moore,  of  Charlestown,  West  Virginia,  William  E.  Connel- 
ley,  of  Topeka,  Kansas,  and  Edwin  Tatham,  of  New  York, 
have  placed  the -author  under  special  obligations  here  grate- 
fully acknowledged. 

Dr.  Thomas  Feathers tonhaugh,  of  Washington,  has  been 
most  generous  in  giving  the  author  free  access  to  his  rich 
collections  of  books,  pamphlets  and  photographs,  and  they 
have  been  largely  drawn  upon.  The  author  also  gladly  records 
his  lasting  indebtedness  to  Miss  Katherine  Mayo,  whose  jour- 
neys in  search  of  material  for  his  use  have  covered  a  period  of 
more  than  two  years  and  many  thousands  of  miles.  But  for 
her  judgment,  her  tact  and  skill,  and  her  enthusiasm  for  the 
work,  it  could  hardly  have  approached  its  present  compre- 
hensiveness. Finally,  without  the  approval,  generous  aid  and 
encouragement  of  his  uncle,  Francis  Jackson  Garrison,  of 
Boston,  the  author  could  not  have  undertaken  or  completed 
this  book. 

New  York,  August  i,  1910. 


CONTENTS 

I.  The  Moulding  of  the  Man i 

II.  "H13  Greatest  or  Principal  Object" 42 

III.  In  the  Wake  of  the  War  Cloud 79 

IV.  The  Captain  of  the  Liberty  Guards 112 

V.  Murder  on  the  Pottawatomie 148 

VI.  Close  Quarters  at  Black  Jack 189 

VII.  The  Foe  in  the  Field 225 

VIII.  New  Friends  for  Old  Visions 267 

IX.  A  Convention  and  a  Postponement 310 

X.  Shubel  Morgan,  Warden  of  the  Marches    .    .    .346 

XI.  The  Eve  of  the  Tragedy ^"391 

XII.  High  Treason  in  Virginia 426 

XIII.  Guilty  before  the  Law 467 

XIV.  By  Man  shall  his  Blood  be  Shed 511 

XV.  Yet  shall  he  Live 558 

Notes 591 

Appendix 

A.  "  Sambo's  Mistakes,"  by  John  Brown 659 

B.  John  Brown's  Covenant  for  the  Enlistment  of  his  Volunteer- 

Regular  Company,  August,  1856 66' 

C.  John  Brown's  Requisition  upon  the  National  Kansas  Com- 

mittee, for  an  outfit  for  his  proposed  Company,  January, 
1857         664 

D.  John  Brown's  Peace  Agreement 665 

E.  Shubel  Morgan's  Company        666 

F.  John  Brown's  Wills 667 

G.  John  Avis's  Affidavit  as  to  his  Association  with  John  Brown  670 
H.   A  Chronology  of  John  Brown's  Movements  from  his  depar- 
ture for  Kansas,  August  13,  1855,  to  his  death,  December 

2,  1859 672 

I.  John  Brown's  Men  at  Arms 678 


xii  CONTENTS 

Bibliography 

I.    Manuscript  Collections 689 

II.   Biographies 689 

III.  Magazine  and  Other  Articles 690 

IV.  Authorities  on  the  Kansas  Period 694 

V.    Books,  Pamphlets  and  Periodicals  relating  particularly  to  the  Har- 
per's Ferry  Raid    ....  697 

VI.   Reports  of  Important  Meetings  dealing  with  the  Raid  and  Execu- 
tion         700 

VII.    Important  Speeches  and  Addresses  on  John  Brown,  as  separately 

published 701 

VIII.   Some  Typical  Sermons 702 

IX.   Biographies,  Autobiographies  and  Reminiscences  of  Correlated  or 

Important  Persons 703 

X.   Local  and  General  Histories  with  Special  References  to  John  Brown 

and  his  Men 707 

Index 711 


ILLUSTRATIONS 

John  Brown Frontispiece 

From  a  painting  by  Nahum  B.  Onthank  in  the  Boston  Athenaum.  This 
was  based  on  a  photograph  from  life  by  J.  W.  Black,  of  Boston,  in  May, 
i8sQ,  and  the  artist  had  the  benefit  of  the  criticisms  and  suggestions  of  Mrs. 
Brown,  John  Brown,  Jr.,  and  other  members  of  the  family.  Onthank  made 
two  paintings,  one  of  which  was  purchased  by  Thaddeus  Hyatt  and  presented 
by  him  to  the  People  of  Hayti,  through  President  Geffrard.  The  second  was 
purchased  by  subscription  and  given  to  the  Athenceum. 

Owen  Brown,  Father  of  John  Brown 14 

From  a  photograph 

Four  of  John  Brown's  Sons  in  Later  Years:  John  Brown, 
Jr.,  Jason,  Salmon  and  Owen  Brown 166 

From  photographs. 

The  Osawatomie  Battlefield,  looking  toward  the  River  244 

From  a  photograph. 

Part  of  the  Black  Jack  Battlefield 244 

From  a  photograph. 

Main  Street  of  Tabor,  Iowa 268 

From  a  photograph. 

The  Public  Square  at  Tabor 268 

From  a  photograph. 

John  Brown 282 

Photogravure  from  a  daguerreotype  {i8s7?)  kindly  loaned  by  Mrs.  Charles 
Fairchild,  Cambridge,  Mass. 

House  of  Rev.  John  Todd,  Tabor,  Iowa 316 

Where  John  Brown  stored  his  guns  and  ammunition. 
From  a  photograph. 

The  School-house  at  Springdale 316 

Where  the  Mock  Legislature  met. 
From  a  photograph. 

John  Brown 338 

Photogravure  from  a  photograph  taken  {probably  in  June,  1858)  by  J.  J. 
Hawes,  of  Boston 

John  Brown's  Northern  Supporters:  George  L.  Stearns, 
Gerrit  Smith,  Frank  B.  Sanborn,  Thomas  Wentworth 
Higginson,  Theodore  Parker,  Samuel  G.  Howe  .    .    .396 

From  photographs. 


xiv  ILLUSTRATIONS 

The  House  at  Kennedy  Farm,  Maryland 404 

From  a  woodcut. 

The  Cabin  across  the  Road  from  the  Farmhouse     .    •     •404 

From  a  woodcut. 

School-house  guarded  by  John  E.  Cook 404 

From  a  woodcut. 

Map  of  the  Harper's  Ferry  Region 414 

General  View  of  Harper's  Ferry,  West  Virginia.     .    .  428 

From  a  photograph  kindly  furnished  by  the  Baltimore  &  Ohio  Railroad. 

Harper's  Ferry:  The  Fighting  at  the  Engine-House     .  444 

From  a  woodcut. 

Victims  of  Harper's  Ferry:  John  H.  Kagi,  Aaron  D.  Ste-' 
vens,  Oliver  Brown  and  Watson  Brown 448 

From  photographs. 

The  Storming  of  the  Engine-house 452 

From  a  woodcut. 

The  Prison,  Guard-House,  and  Court-House,  Charles- 
town,  West  Virginia 486 

From  a  woodcut. 

One  of  John  Brown's  Letters  from  Prison 542 

Facsimile  from  the  original  in  possession  of  Mr.  Theodore  P.  Adams,  of 
Plymouth,  Mass. 

John  Brown's  Last  Prophecy 554 

Facsimile  from  the  original  in  possession  of  Mr.  Frank  G.  Logan,  of 
Chicago. 

The  North  Elba  Farmhouse 562 

From  a  photograph. 

John  Brown's  Grave 562 

From  a  photograph. 

Note.  —  The  Osawatomie  and  Black  Jack  battlefields,  the  Todd  house  at 
Tabor,  and  school-house  at  Springdale,  were  photographed  by  the  author  in 
1908;  the  views  of  Kennedy  Farm,  of  the  fighting  at  Harper's  Ferry,  and  of  the 
Charlestown  Court-House  and  Prison  are  reproduced  from  woodcuts  in  Frank 
Leslie's  Illustrated  Paper  (New  York)  for  October  and  November,  1859;  the  por- 
traits of  Owen  Brown  (father  of  John  Brown),  Kagi,  Stevens,  Oliver  and  Watson 
Brown,  and  the  views  of  the  Farmhouse  and  Grave  at  North  Elba,  are  from 
photographs  kindly  lent  by  Dr.  Thomas  Featherstonhaugh,  of  Washington,  D.  C; 
the  portraits  of  John  Brown,  Jr..  and  of  Salmon  and  Owen  Brown  are  from  photo- 
graphs belonging  to  Mrs.  John  Brown,  Jr.,  Put-in  Bay,  Ohio;  that  of  Jason  Brown, 
from  a  photograph  made  in  1908,  for  Mr.  Earl  E.  Martin,  editor  of  the  Cleve- 
land Press. 


THE  MOULDING  OF  THE  MAN  19 

their  married  life,  Dianthe  gave  birth  to  seven  children,  dying 
August  10,  1832,  three  days  after  the  coming  of  a  son.  Of  her 
other  six  children,  five  grew  to  manhood  and  womanhood,  all 
of  marked  character  and  vigorous  personality :  John  Brown, 
Jr.,  Jason,  Owen,  Ruth  and  Frederick,  the  last  named  meeting 
a  cruel  death  in  Kansas  in  his  twenty-sixth  year.  Of  these, 
Jason  alone  survives  at  this  writing,  at  the  age  of  eighty-six. 
Dianthe  Lusk,  too,  could  boast  of  an  old  colonial  lineage,  for 
her  ancestry  traced  back  to  the  famous  Adams  family  of  Mas- 
sachusetts. There  was,  however,  a  mental  weakness  in  the  LusIcV 
family  which  manifested  itself  early  in  her  married  life,  as 
it  did  in  her  two  sisters."  In  two  of  her  sons,  John  Brown, 
Jr.,  and  Frederick,  there  was  also  a  disposition  to  insanity. 
Devoted  as  he  was  to  his  wife,  John  Brown  ruled  his  home 
with  a  strong  hand,  in  a  way  that  seemed  to  some  akin  to 
cnielty;  but  his  children  and  an  overwhelming  mass  of  evi- 
dence prove  the  contrary.  He  did  not  get  on  well  with  his 
brother-in-law,  Milton  Lusk,  who  refused  to  attend  the  wed- 
ding because  John  Brown  the  Puritan  had  asked  him  to  visit 
his  mother  and  sister  on  some  other  day  than  the  Sabbath^ 
They  were  at  no  time  congenial,  though  in  later  years  Milton 
Lusk  bore  no  ill-will  to  his  brother-in-law;  yet  he  always 
disliked  the  rigor  imposed  upon  his  sister's  household.  But 
the  Brown  children  were  devoted  to  both  parents,  and  revered 
always  the  memory  of  their  mother.  They  remembered,  too, 
when  symptoms  of  mental  illness  appeared,  the  kindliness  and 
tenderness  with  which  the  husband  shielded  and  tended  and 
watched  over  his  wife. 

As  to  his  children,  John  Brown  at  first  believed  in  the  use  of 
the  rod,  and  he  was  particularly  anxious  that  they  should  not 
yield  to  the  "habit  of  lying"  which  had  worried  him  so  much 
in  his  own  boyhood.  "Terribly  severe "  is  the  way  his  punish- 
ments were  described,  and  he  made  no  allowance  for  childish 
imaginings.  Once  when  Jason,  then  not  yet  four  years  old,  told 
of  a  dream  he  had  had  and  insisted  that  it  was  the  reality,  his 
father  thrashed  him  severely,  albeit  with  tears  in  his  eyes.^^ 
But  in  later  years,  it  is  pleasant  to  record,  John  Brown,  after 
travelling  about  the  world,  came  to  realize  that  there  were 
other  methods  of  dealing  with  children,  and  softened  consider- 
ably, even  expressing  regret  for  his  early  theory  and  practice 


20  JOHN  BROWN 

of  punishments.  There  are  instances  in  number  of  touching 
devotion  to  this  or  that  child ;  of  his  sitting  up  night  after  night 
with  an  ailing  infant.  Once  he  hurried  to  North  Elba  from 
Troy  on  the  rumor  that  smallpox  had  broken  out  in  a  near-by 
village,  in  order  that  he  might  be  on  hand  to  nurse  if  the 
scourge  entered  his  family.  He  nursed  several  of  his  children 
through  scarlet  fever  without  medical  aid,  and  in  consequence 
became  in  demand  in  other  stricken  homes  in  the  neighbor- 
hood. "  Whenever  any  of  the  family  were  sick,  he  did  not  often 
trust  watchers  to  care  for  the  sick  ones,  but  sat  up  himself  and 
was  like  a  tender  mother.  At  one  time  he  sat  up  every  night 
for  two  weeks,  while  mother  was  sick,  for  fear  he  would  over- 
sleep if  he  went  to  bed,  and  the  fire  would  go  out,  and  she  take 
cold.  No  one  outside  of  his  own  family  can  ever  know  the 
strength  and  tenderness  of  his  character,"  wrote  Mrs.  Ruth 
Brown  Thompson  in  her  reminiscences  of  her  father.  His 
character  was  not  an  unusual  one  in  this  respect  ;/Jhe  combi- 
nation of  iron  discipline  with  extreme  tenderness  of  hear£|is 
often  the  mark  of  deep  affection  and  high  purpose  in  men  of 
power  and  rigid  self-control,  and  so  it  was  with  him.  Not 
unnaturally,  his  children  reacted  from  "the  very  strict  con- 
trol and  Sunday  School  rules"  under  which  they  lived,  and 
used,  as  Salmon  puts  it,  "  to  carry  on  pretty  high,"  as  some  of 
the  neighbors  who  still  live  can  tell  the  tale. 

Sabbath  in  the  Brown  family  had  all  the  horrors  of  the  New 
England  rest  day  of  several  generations  ago.  There  were  strict 
religious  observances,  and  there  was  no  playing  and  no  pre- 
tence at  playing.  Visiting  was  discouraged,  as  well  as  receiving 
visits.  The  head  of  the  family  was  not  without  humor,  but  as 
Fowler,  the  phrenologist,  correctly  said  of  him,  his  jokes  were 
"more  cutting  than  cute."  He  inclined  to  sarcasm,  and  "his 
words  were  as  sharp  as  his  eyes  to  those  who  did  not  please 
him."  In  the  final  drama  at  Harper's  Ferry,  Watson  Brown 
said  to  his  father:  "The  trouble  is,  you  want  your  boys  to  be 
brave  as  tigers,  and  still  afraid  of  you."  "And  that  was  per- 
fectly true"  is  Salmon  Brown's  confirmation  of  the  remark. 
Similarly,  John  Brown  wanted  his  children  to  be  as  true  as 
steel,  as  honest  as  men  and  women  possibly  can  be  and  as 
truthful,  and  yet  afraid  of  him.  As  was  often  the  case,  the 
intense  religious  training  given  to  his  children  in  the  broaden- 


THE  MOULDING  OF  THE  MAN  21 

ing  period  of  the  first  half  of  the  nineteenth  century  resulted 
in  a  reaction.  All  his  sons  were  strangers  to  church-ties.  Iii^ 
this  their  strong  feeling  in  regard  to  slavery,  to  which  they 
came  naturally  from  grandfather  and  father,  played  a  great 
part.  Yet  this  dislike  of  slavery  was  never  beaten  into  them ; 
nor  is  it  true  that  John  Brown  ever  forced  a  son  into  one  of 
his  campaigns.  It  is  doubtful  if  he  could  often  have  com- 
manded such  strong  natures.  Dislike  of  human  bondage,  as  the\ 
children  grew  up,  became  as  inuch  a  factor  in  the  family's  life 
as  the  natural  desire  for  food  and  clothing  and  shelter.  It  was 
no  more  assumed  than  inculcated ;  they  hated  it  with  a  hatred 


greater  in  SQme..casgs_than_their..w.isa.to  JiveTvCTTatever  els^ 
may  be  said  of  the  Brown  family  life,  or  of  the  father  as  a  dis- 
ciplinarian, it  is  a  fact  that  the  children  grew  up  into  honorable 
men  and  women,  not  successful  in  accumulating  worldly  goods 
in  any  degree,  but  as  illustrative  of  the  homely  virtues  as  their 
father  and  their  grandfather.  Temperate  they  all  of  them 
were,  like  their  father,  yet  not  all  or  always  total  abstainers. 
John  Brown  himself,  though  an  abstainer  after  1829,  firmly 
believed  that  "a  free  use  of  pure  wines  in  the  country  would 
do  away  with  a  great  deal  of  intemperance,  and  that  it  was  a 
good  temperance  work  to  make  pure  wine  and  use  it."  ^^  For 
a  time  two  of  his  sons  devoted  themselves  to  grape-growing 
for  wine  purposes,  until  they  finally  came  to  have  scruples 
against  it. 

Of  John  Brown's  early  life  after  his  marriage  there  is,  for- 
tunately, a  reliable  record.  James  Foreman,  one  of  his  jour- 
neymen in  1820,  wrote  down  his  recollections  of  his  employer 
shortly  after  the  latter's  death  in  1859,=='  for  the  benefit  of 
Brown's  first  biographer,  who  did  not,  however,  utiUze  them. 

"It  was  John  Brown's  fixed  rule,"  wrote  Mr.  Foreman,  "that 
his  apprentices  and  journej^men  must  always  attend  church  every 
Sunday,  and  family  worship  every  morning.  In  the  summer  of  1824 
a  journeyman  of  his  stole  from  him  a  very  fine  calfskin.  Brown  dis- 
covered the  deed,  made  the  man  confess,  lectured  him  at  length  and 
then  told  him  he  would  not  prosecute  him  unless  he  left  his  place ; 
but,  that,  if  he  did  leave,  he  should  be  prosecuted  to  the  end  of  the 
law. 

"The  journeyman  staid  about  two  months,  through  fear  of  pro- 
secution ;  and  in  the  meantime  all  hands  about  the  tannery  and  in 
the  house  were  strictly  forbidden  speaking  to  him,  not  even  to  ask  a 


22  JOHN  BROWN 

question;  and  I  think  a  worse  punishment  could  not  have  been  set 
upon  a  poor  human  being  than  this  was  to  him :  But  it  retormed 
him  and  he  afterward  became  a  useful  man. 

"  In  the  fall  of  the  same  year  his  wife  was  taken  sick  under  pecul- 
iar circumstances,  and  Brown  started  for  the  Dr.  and  some  lady 
friends,  from  his  residence  i^  miles  to  the  centre  of  Hudson.  On  his 
way  he  espied  two  men  tying  up  two  bags  of  apples  and  making 
ready  to  put  them  on  their  horses.  Brown  immediately  tied  his  own 
horse,  went  to  the  men  and  made  them  empty  their  apples,  own  up 
to  the  theft,  and  settle  up  the  matter  before  he  attended  to  the  case 
of  his  wife.  Such  was  his  strict  integrity  for  honesty  and  justice." 

Once,  Mr.  Foreman  remembered,  Brown  fell  into  a  discus- 
sion with  a  Methodist  minister,  who,  being  flippant  and  fluent, 
seemed  to  talk  the  tanner  down. 

"  [Brown]  afterward  commented  on  the  man's  manners  and  said  he 
should  like  a  public  debate  with  him.  Soon  after  the  preacher  came 
to  enquire  whether  Brown  desired,  as  was  reported,  a  public  debate, 
and  whether,  also,  if,he  had  said  the  speaker  was  '  no  gentleman,  let 
alone  a  clergyman.'  Brown  replied:  ' I  did  say  you  were  no  gentle- 
man. I  said  more  than  that,  sir.'  'What  did  you  say,  sir? '  enquired 
the  preacher.  'I  said,  sir,'  replied  Brown,  'that  it  would  take  as 
many  men  like  you  to  make  a  gentleman  as  it  would  take  wrens  to 
make  a  cock  turkey ! '  The  public  debate,  however,  came  off,  con- 
ducted in  questions  and  answers.  Brown  first  to  ask  all  his  questions, 
which  the  other  should  answer  and  then  the  reverse.  But  John 
Brown's  questions  so  exhausted  and  confused  his  opponent,  that  the 
latter  retired  without  opening  his  side  of  the  debate.  ...  So  strict 
was  he  that  his  leather  should  be  perfectly  dry  before  sold,  that  a 
man  might  come  ten  miles  for  five  pounds  of  sole  leather  and  if  the 
least  particle  of  moisture  could  be  detected  in  it  he  must  go  home 
without  it.  No  compromise  as  to  amount  of  dampness  could  be 
effected.  .  .  .  He  was  jocose  and  mirthful,  when  the  conversation 
did  not  turn  on  anything  profane  or  vulgar,  and  the  Bible  was  almost 
at  his  tongue's  end.  .  .  .  He  considered  it  as  much  his  duty  to  help 
a  negro  escape  as  it  was  to  help  catch  a  horse  thief,  and  of  a  new 
settler  .  .  .  [his]  first  enquiry  .  .  .  was  whether  he  was  an  observer 
of  the  Sabbath,  opposed  to  slavery  and  a  supporter  of  the  gospel  and 
common  schools ;  if  so,  all  was  right  with  him ;  if  not,  he  was  looked 
upon  by  Brown  with  suspicion.  In  politics  he  was  originally  an 
Adams  man  and  afterwards  a  Whig  and  I  believe  a  strong  one.  Yet 
I  do  not  believe  the  time  ever  was  that  he  would  have  voted  for 
Henry  Clay,  for  the  reason  that  he  had  fought  a  duel  and  owned 
slaves.  ■  •  .  His  food  was  always  plain  and  simple,  all  luxuries  being 
dispensed  with  and  not  allowed  in  his  family,  and  in  the  year  1830 
he  rigidly  adopted  the  teetotal  temperance  principle. 

"  Hunting,  gunning  and  fishing  he  had  an  abhorrence  of  as  learn- 


THE  MOULDING  OF  THE  MAN  23 

ing  men  and  boys  to  idle  away  their  time  and  learn  them  lazy  habits, 
and  it  was  with  the  greatest  reluctance  that  he  would  trust  a  man 
with  a  piece  of  leather  who  came  after  it  with  a  gun  on  his  shoulder. 
...  He  took  great  pains  to  inculcate  general  information  among 
the  people,  good  moral  books  and  papers,  and  to  establish  a  reading 
community." 

In  May,  1825,  despite  the  success  of  his  Hudson  tannery 
and  his  having  built  himself  a  substantial  house  the  year 
before,  John  Brown  moved  his  family  to  Richmond,  Crawford 
County,  Pennsylvania,  near  Meadville,  where  with  note- 
worthy energy  he  had  cleared  twenty-five  acres  of  timber 
lands,  built  a  fine  tannery,  sunk  vats,  and  had  leather  tan- 
ning in  them  all  by  the  ist  of  October.^^  The  virgin  forests 
and  cheap  cost  of  transportation  lured  him  to  his  new  home. 
Here,  like  his  father  at  Hudson,  John  Brown  was  of  marked 
value  to  the  new  settlement  at  Richmond  by  his  devotion  to 
the  cause  of  religion  and  civil  order.  He  surveyed  new  roads, 
was  instrumental  in  erecting  school-houses,  procuring  preach- 
ers and  "encouraging  everything  that  would  have  a  moral 
tendency."  It  became  almost  a  proverb  in  Richmond,  so  Mr. 
Foreman  records,  to  say  of  an  aggressive  man  that  he  was 
"as  enterprising  and  honest  as  John  Brown,  and  as  useful  to 
the  county."  This  removal  of  his  family  gave  its  young  mem- 
bers just  such  a  taste  of  pioneering  as  their  father  had  had  at 
Hudson,  and  was  the  first  of  ten  migrations  under  the  lead- 
ership of  their  restless  head,  prior  to  the  emigration  to  Kansas 
of  the  eldest  sons  in  1854-55.  In  Richmond  the  family  dwelt 
nearly  ten  years,  until  for  business  reasons  the  bread-winner 
felt  himself  compelled  to  return  to  Ohio." 

In  the  year  1828  John  Brown  brought  into  Crawford  County 
the  first  blooded  stock  its  settlers  had  ever  seen.  Being  in- 
strumental in  obtaining  the  first  post-office  in  that  region, 
he  received  this  same  year  the  appointment  of  postmaster 
from  President  John  Quincy  Adams,  January  7,  serving  until 
May  27,  1835,  when  he  left  the  State;  and  there  are  letters 
extant  bearing  his  franks  as  postmaster  of  Randolph,  as  the 
new  post-office  was  called.  The  first  school  was  held  alternately 
in  John  Brown's  home  and  that  of  a  Delamater  family,  con- 
nections of  Dianthe  Lusk,  the  Delamater  children  boarding 
for  the  winter  terms  in  Brown's  home,  and  the  Brown  chil- 


24  JOHN  BROWN 

dren  spending  the  summer  terms  at  the  Delamaters',  for 
a  period  of  four  years,  only  a  few  other  children  attending. 
George  B.  Delamater,  one  of  the  scholars,  retained  a  vivid 
impression  of  the  early  winter  breakfasts  in  the  Brown  family, 
"immediately  after  which  Bibles  were  distributed.  Brown 
requiring  each  one  to  read  a  given  number  of  verses,  himself 
leading ;  then  he  would  stand  up  and  pray,  grasping  the  back 
of  the  chair  at  the  top  and  incHning  slightly  forward,"  which 
solemn  moment,  so  Salmon  Brown  remembers,  the  elder  chil- 
dren frequently  utilized  for  playing  tricks  on  one  another. 
Sunday  religious  exercises  were  at  first  held  in  Brown's  barn. 
Of  them  Mr.  Delamater  says,  "everything  seemed  fixed  as 
fate  by  the  inspiring  presence  of  him  whose  every  movement, 
however  spontaneous,  seemed  to  enforce  conformity  to  his 
ideas  of  what  must  or  must  not  be  done.  .  .  .  He  was  no 
scold,  did  nothing  petulantly;  but  seemed  to  be  simply  an 
inspired  paternal  ruler ;  controlling  and  providing  for  the  circle 
of  which  he  was  the  head,"  —  testimony  of  value  as  showing 
that  even  at  this  early  age  Brown  had  the  compelling  power 
of  masterful  leadership. 

Here  in  Richmond  the  first  great  grief  came  into  John 
Brown's  life  in  the  death  of  a  four-year-old  son,  Frederick,  on 
March  31,  1831,  and  the  demise  in  August,  1832,  of  Dianthe 
Brown  and  her  unnamed  infant  son  who  also  had  such  a  "  short 
passage  through  time."  ^*  Their  graves  are  still  to  be  found 
near  the  old,  now  rebuilt,  tannery,  and  are  cared  for  and  pro- 
tected out  of  regard  for  John  Brown.  Nearly  a  year  later  he 
was  married  for  the  second  time,  to  Mary  Anne  Day,^°  daugh- 
ter of  Charles  Day,  of  Whitehall,  New  York,  who  was  then 
a  resident  of  Troy  township,  Pennsylvania.  Her  father  was 
a  blacksmith,  who  had  been  fairly  well-to-do,  but  had  lost  his 
property  by  endorsing  notes,  so  that  Mary  Day  grew  up  with 
narrow  means  and  almost  no  schooling.  For  a  time  after  the 
death  of  Dianthe  Brown,  Mary's  elder  sister  went  to  John 
Brown's  as  housekeeper,  and  Mary,  presently,  was  engaged  to 
come  there  to  spin.  She  was  then  a  large,  silent  girl,  only  six- 
teen years  of  age.  John  Brown  quickly  grew  fond  of  her,  per- 
haps saw  the  staying  powers  in  her,  and  one  day  gave  her  a 
letter  offering  marriage.  She  was  so  overcome  that  she  dare'd 
not  read  it.    Next  morning  she  found  courage  to  do  so,  and 


THE  MOULDING  OF  THE  MAN  25 

when  she  went  down  to  the  spring  for  water  for  the  house,  he 
followed  her  and  she  gave  him  her  answer  there.  A  woman  of 
rugged  physical  health  and  even  greater  ruggedness  of  nature, 
she  bore  for  her  husband  thirteen  children  within  twenty-one 
years,  of  whom  seven  died  in  childhood,  and  two  were  killed 
in  early  manhood  at  Harper's  Ferry.  Besides  the  lives  of  the 
latter,  Oliver  and  Watson,  Mary  Day  Brown  made  cheerfully 
and  willingly  many  other  sacrifices  for  the  cause  to  which  her 
husband  also  gave  his  life,  as  will  appear  later.  No  one  but  a 
strong  character  could  have  borne  uncomplainingly  the  hard- 
ships which  fell  to  her  lot,  particularly  in  her  bleak  Adirondack 
home  in  the  later  years.  But  she  was  as  truly  of  the  stuff  of 
which  martyrs  are  made  as  was  her  husband — even  if  she  had 
had  less  advantages  and  opportunities  for  learning  and  culture 
than  he.  If  there  ever  was  a  family  in  which  the  mother  did 
her  full  share  and  more  of  arduous  labor,  it  was  this  one.  No- 
thing but  the  complete  faith  he  had  in  her  ability  to  be  both 
mother  and  guardian  of  his  flock  made  possible  for  John  Brown 
his  long  absences  from  home  year  after  year,  both  when  in 
business  and  when  warring  against  slavery  in  Kansas  and 
Virginia.  And  Mary  Day  Brown  was  a  woman  of  few  words, 
even  after  the  catastrophe  at  Harper's  Ferry. 

During  part  of  the  interval  between  Dianthe  Brown's 
death  and  her  husband's  remarriage,  John  Brown  boarded 
with  Mr.  Foreman,  who  had  just  married.  Even  in  his  first 
grief,  Mr.  Foreman  remembers,  John  Brown  had  a  deep 
interest  in  the  welfare  of  his  neighbors.  Others  remember"^ 
Brown  as  the  organizer  of  an  Independent  Congregational 
Society,  which  came  into  being  on  January  11,  1832,  its  arti- 
cles of  faith  being  written  out  in  his  hand  as  clerk  of  the 
society.  It  is  recalled,  too,  that  besides  being  postmaster  he/ 
had  for  some  years  the  carrying  of  the  mails  between  Mead- 
ville  and  Riceville,  a  distance  of  twenty  miles.  Politically,  he 
was  at  this  time  an  Adams  man,  and  he  was  still  as  interested 
in  the  fugitive  slave  as  he  had  been  in  Hudson.  There  was 
in  the  haymow  of  his  barn  a  roughly  boarded  room,  entered 
by  a  trap-door,  and  ventilated  and  equipped  for  the  use  of 
escaping  slaves.  The  whole  was  always  so  cleverly  concealed 
by  hay  that  a  man  might  stand  on  the  trap-door  and  yet 
see  no  signs  of  the  hiding-place.  In  striking  contrast  to  John 


26  JOHN  BROWN 

Brown's  later  development  into  a  man  of  disguises,  assumed 
names  and  many  plots,  was  his  dislike  of  the  Masonic  orders. 
He  became  a  member  of  a  lodge  while  residing  either  in  Hud- 
son or  in  Richmond,  and  for  a  while  was  an  ardent  disciple. 
Then,  however,  he  rebelled  and  withdrew.  "Somewhere,"  so 
John  Brown,  Jr.,  told  the  story  in  after  years,  "  in  an  historical 
museum,  I  think,  is  the  first  firearm  that  father  ever  possessed. 
The  way  he  came  to  get  it  was  this:  Father  had  been  a  Free 
Mason  for  years.  You  have  read  about  the  great  excitement 
over  the  disappearance  of  Morgan,  who  had  threatened  to 
expose  the  secrets  of  Masonry?  Well,  father  denounced  the 
murder  of  Morgan  in  the  hottest  kind  of  terms.  This  was 
when  we  lived  over  in  Pennsylvania.  Father  had  occasion  to  go 
to  Meadville.  A  mob  bent  on  lynching  him  surrounded  the 
hotel,  but  Landlord  Smith  enabled  him  to  escape  through  a 
back  entrance.  Father  then  got  a  sort  of  pistol  that  was  about 
half  rifle,  and  he  became  very  adept  in  its  use,  killing  deer  with 
it  on  several  occasions."  ^"  It  was  in  September,  1826,  that 
the  country  was  so  excited  over  the  anti-Masonic  revelations 
of  William  Morgan  which  resulted  in  his  murder. 

After  just  ten  years  of  residence  in  Richmond,  John  Brown 
removed  to  Franklin  Mills,  Portage  County,  Ohio,  to  go  into 
the  tanning  business  with  Zenas  Kent,  a  well-to-do  business 
man  of  that  town.  In  a  letter  written  to  him  on  April  24,  1835, 
John  Brown  thus  details  the  financial  distress  he  found  him- 
self in,  which  no  doubt  accentuated  his  desire  for  a  new  field 
of  activity:  " 

"Yours  of  the  14th  was  received  by  last  Mail.  I  was  disappointed 
in  the  extreme  not  to  obtain  the  money  I  expected ;  &  I  know  of 
no  possible  way  to  get  along  without  it.  I  had  borrowed  it  for  a  few 
days  to  settle  up  a  number  of  honorary  debts  which  I  could  not 
leave  unpaid  and  come  away.  It  is  utterly  impossible  to  sell  any- 
thing for  ready  cash  or  to  collect  debts.  I  expect  Father  to  come  out 
for  cattle  about  the  first  of  May  and  I  wish  you  without  fail  to  send 
it  by  him.  It  is  now  to  late  to  think  of  sending  it  by  mail.  I  was 
intending  to  turn  everything  I  could  into  shingles  as  one  way  to  real- 
ize cash  in  Ohio,  before  you  wrote  me  about  them.  25,  dollars  of  the 
money  I  want  is  to  enable  me  to  carry  that  object  into  effect. ..."  * 

*  In  spelling  and  punctuation  these  earlier  letters  are  superior  to  the  later 
epistles;  the  handwriting  is  by  this  time  the  familiar  one,  full  of  character  and 
strength. 


THE  MOULDING  OF  THE  MAN  27 

The  partnership  of  Kent  &  Brown  was  not  destined  to  be  of 
long  duration,  for  the  latter  had  no  sooner  completed  the 
tannery  at  Franklin  than  it  was  rented  by  Marvin  Kent,  a 
son  of  the  senior  partner,  even  before  the  departments  were 
ready  for  operation  and  the  vats  in  place,  so  that  the  business 
of  tanning  hides  was  never  actually  carried  on  by  the  firm.'^ 
John  Brown  then  secured  a  contract  for  the  construction  of 
part  of  the  Ohio  and  Pennsylvania  Canal,  from  FrankHn  Mills 
to  Akron,  during  which  time  he  dealt  chiefly  with  the  Kents. 
It  was  a  year  later  that  John  Brown  began  some  land  specu- 
lations which  proved  quite  disastrous  and  did  much  to  injure 
his  standing  and  business  credit.  With  a  Mr.  Thompson  he 
purchased  a  farm  of  more  than  a  hundred  acres  owned  by  a 
Mr.  Haymaker,  which  then  adjoined  Franklin  village  (now 
the  prosperous  town  of  Kent),  believing  that  the  coming  oi 
the  canal  and  other  changes  would  make  Franklin  a  great 
manufacturing  town.  For  this  farm  there  was  paid  $7000, 
mostly  money  borrowed  of  Heman  Oviatt,  who  had  acquired 
large  means  as  a  trader  with  the  Indians,  and  of  Frederick 
Wadsworth.  The  farm  was  quickly  plotted  by  Brown  as 
"  Brown  and  Thompson's  addition  to  Franklin  Village."  But 
he  was  far  ahead  of  his  time  in  this  scheme,  and  within  a 
couple  of  years  the  land  was  foreclosed  by  Oviatt  and  Wads- 
worth.  This  tract,  crossed  by  three  trunk-line  railroads,  is 
now  of  great  value,  containing  as  it  does  an  island  park,  the 
shops  of  the  Erie  Railroad  and  some  large  manufactories.  The 
Haymaker  house  in  which  Brown  lived  is  still  standing. 
About  the  same  time,  John  Brown,  with  twenty-one  other 
prominent  men  of  Franklin,  Ravenna  and  Akron,  formed  the 
Franklin  Land  company,  and  purchased  of  Zenas  Kent  and 
others  the  water-power,  mills,  lands,  etc.,  in  both  the  upper 
and  lower  Franklin  villages.  Through  the  cooperation  of  the 
canal  company,  the  two  water-powers  were  combined  mid- 
way between  the  two  villages.  A  new  settlement  was  then 
laid  out  between  both  places,  and  would  undoubtedly  have 
been  a  successful  enterprise,  had  the  canal  company  lived  up 
to  its  agreement.  Instead,  it  drew  off  largely  the  waters  of 
the  Cuyahoga  River,  ostensibly  for  canal  purposes,  but  in 
reality,  in  the  opinion  of  John  Brown  and  his  partners,  for  the 
purpose  of  pushing  Akron  ahead  at  the  expense  of  the  new 


28  JOHN  BROWN 

village,  to  which  the  Brown  and  Thompson  addition  was 
planned  before  the  town  itself  was  well  under  way. 

In  these  and  other  schemes  John  Brown  became  so  deeply 
involved  that  he  failed  during  the  bad  times  of  1837,  lost 
nearly  all  his  property  by  assignment  to  his  creditors,  and 
was  then  not  able  to  pay  all  his  debts,  some  of  which  were 
never  liquidated.  His  father  also  lost  heavily  through  him. 
While  he  says  in  his  autobiography  that  he  "rarely  failed  in 
some  good  degree  to  effect  the  things  he  undertook,"  this  can- 
not apply  to  his  business  affairs  in  the  1835  to  1845  period  of 
his  life,  or  even  later,  but  must  be  taken  as  referring  to  those 
philanthropic  or  public-spirited  undertakings  in  which  he  had 
won  a  name  for  himself  a  short  time  previous  to  that  story  of 
his  life.  In  1842  he  was  even  compelled  to  go  through  bank- 
ruptcy. Naturally,  all  this  greatly  damaged  Brown's  business 
standing,  and  created  with  some  people  who  had  lost  money 
through  him  that  doubt  of  his  integrity  which  so  often  follows 
the  loss  of  money  through  another.  But  the  final  verdict  in 
the  vicinity  of  Franklin  was  summed  up  recently  by  the  late 
Marvin  Kent.  To  him  Brown  was  at  this  early  period  a  man 
of  "fast,  stubborn  and  strenuous  convictions  that  nothing 
short  of  a  mental  rebirth  could  ever  have  altered ; "  a  "  man  of 
ordinary  calibre  with  a  propensity  to  business  failure  in  what- 
ever he  attempted."  *  There  is  no  allegation  of  dishonesty, 
despite  the  unpaid  accounts  and  protested  notes  still  on 
the  books  of  Marvin  Kent  and  his  father.  Heman  Oviatt,  of 
Richfield,  Ohio,  who  lent  John  Brown  money  and  became  in- 
volved in  lawsuits  in  consequence,  testified  to  his  integrity, 
and  so  do  many  others.  But  there  can  be  no  question  that 
after  leaving  Richmond,  Pennsylvania,  he  was  anything  but 
successful  in  business,  and  his  affairs  became  so  involved  as 
to  make  it  a  matter  of  regret  that  he  could  not  have  devoted 
himself  exclusively  to  tanning  and  farming  in  Richmond.  To 
his  son,  John  Brown,  Jr.,  he  in  after  years  explained  his  mis- 
fortunes by  saying  that  these  grew  out  of  one  root  —  doing 
business  on  credit."  "Instead  of  being  thoroughly  imbued 
with  the  doctrine  of  pay  as  you  go,  I  started  out  in  life  with 

*  "It  is  a  Brown  trait  to  be  migratory,  sanguine  about  what  they  think  they 
can  do,  to  speculate,  to  go  into  debt,  and  to  make  a  good  many  failures."  —  Jason 
Brown,  December  28,  1908. 


THE  MOULDING  OF  THE  MAN  29 

the  idea  that  nothing  could  be  done  without  capital,  and  that 
a  poor  man  must  use  his  credit  and  borrow ;  and  this  pernicious 
notion  has  been  the  rock  on  which  I,  as  well  as  many  others, 
have  split.  The  practical  effect  of  this  false  doctrine  has  been 
to  keep  me  like  a  toad  under  a  harrow  most  of  my  business 
life.  Running  into  debt  includes  so  much  evil  that  I  hope  all 
my  children  will  shun  it  as  they  would  a  pestilence."  The 
purchase  of  four  farms  on  credit  seems  to  have  been  a  chief 
cause  of  Brown's  collapse."  Three  of  these  Franklin  farms 
were  said  to  be  worth  twenty  thousand  dollars  before  the 
financial  crash  of  1837. 

Brown  quitted  Franklin  Mills  in  1837,  returning  with  his 
family  to  Hudson,  but  only  for  a  brief  period.  He  seems  to 
have  alternated  between  the  two  places  until  1841.  One  of 
his  ventures  at  this  period  was  breeding  race-horses.  In  1838 
began  his  long  years  of  travelling  about  the  country.  His  first 
recorded  visit  to  New  York,  after  reaching  manhood,  was  on 
December  5,  1838,  when  he  drove  some  cattle  from  Ohio  to 
Connecticut.  ' '  My  unceasing  &  anxious  care  for  the  present 
and  everlasting  welfare  of  every  one  of  my  family  seems  to  be 
threefold  as  I  get  seperated  farther  and  farther  from  them,"  he 
wrote  home  from  the  metropolis.'*  On  this  trip  he  negotiated 
for  the  agency  of  a  New  York  steel  scythes  house,  and  on 
the  i8th  of  January,  at  West  Hartford,  Connecticut,  made 
a  purchase  of  ten  Saxony  sheep  for  one  hundred  and  thirty 
dollars,  —  this  being  the  beginning  of  his  long  career  as  John 
Brown  the  Shepherd.'^  Other  purchases  of  Saxony  sheep  fol- 
low in  quick  succession,  according  to  the  entries  in  the  first  of 
a  series  of  notebooks  which  often  did  duty  as  rough  diaries. 
The  sheep  he  seems  to  have  taken  by  boat  to  Albany  and 
driven  thence  to  Ohio;  his  notebook  teems  at  this  time  with 
hints  for  the  care  of  sheep  and  such  quaint  entries  as  the  fol- 
lowing: "Deacon  Abel  Hinsdale  left  off  entirely  the  use  of 
Tobacco  at  the  age  of  66  now  73  &  has  used  none  since  that 
time.  No  ba[d]  consequnses  have  followed.  Qery  When  will  a 
man  become  to  old  to  leave  off  any  bad  habit." 

In  June,  1839,  when  his  family  was  again  in  Franklin  Mills, 
he  made  another  trip  to  the  East  on  cattle  business,  the  fol- 
lowing being  a  typical  home  letter  of  this,  for  him,  so  trying 
and  disastrous  period:  " 


30  JOHN  BROWN 

Newhartford  I2th  June  1839 
My  Dear  wife  &  children 

I  write  to  let  you  know  that  I  am  in  comfortable  health  &  that  I 
expect  to  be  on  my  way  home  in  the  course  of  a  week  should  nothing 
befall  me  If  I  am  longer  detained  I  will  write  you  again.  The  cattle 
business  has  succeeded  about  as  I  expected,  but  I  am  now  some  what 
in  fear  that  I  shall  fail  of  getting  the  money  I  expected  on  the  loan. 
Should  that  be  the  will  of  Providence  I  know  of  no  other  way  but 
we  must  consider  ourselves  verry  poor  for  our  debts  must  be  paid, 
if  paid  at  a  sacrifise.  Should  that  happen  (though  it  may  not)  I  hope 
God  who  is  rich  in  mercy  will  grant  us  all  grace  to  conform  to  our 
circumstances  with  cheerfulness  &  true  resignation.  I  want  to  see 
each  of  my  dear  family  verry  much  but  must  wait  Gods  time.  Try 
all  of  you  to  do  the  best  you  can,  and  do  not  one  of  you  be  discour- 
aged, tomorrow  may  be  a  much  brighter  day.  Cease  not  to  ask  Gods 
blessing  on  yourselves  and  me.  Keep  this  letter  wholly  to  yourselves, 
excepting  that  I  expect  to  start  for  home  soon,  and  that  I  did  not 
write  confidently  about  my  success  should  anyone  enquire  Edward 
is  well,  &  Owen  Mills.  You  may  shew  this  to  my  Father,  but  to  no 
one  else. 

I  am  not  without  great  hopes  of  getting  relief  I  would  not  have 
you  understand,  but  things  have  looked  more  unfavourable  for  a  few 
days.  I  think  I  shall  write  you  again  before  I  start.  Earnestly  com- 
mending you  every  one  to  God,  and  to  his  mercy,  which  endureth 
forever,  I  remain  your  affectionate  husband  and  father 

John  Brown 

The  friends  here  I  believe  are  all  well. 

J.  B. 

Three  days  after  writing  this  letter,  John  Brown  received 
from  the  New  England  Woolen  Company,  at  Rockville,  Con- 
necticut, the  sum  of  twenty-eight  hundred  dollars  through 
its  agent,  George  Kellogg,  for  the  purchase  of  wool,  which 
money,  regrettably  enough,  he  pledged  for  his  own  benefit  and 
was  then  unable  to  redeem. '*  Fortunately  for  him,  the  Com- 
pany exercised  leniency  toward  him,  in  return  for  which 
Brown  promised,  in  1842,  after  having  passed  through  bank- 
ruptcy, to  pay  the  money  from  time  to  time,  with  interest,  as 
Divine  Providence  might  enable  him  to  do.  This  moral  obli- 
gation he  freely  recognized,  as  will  appear  from  the  follow- 
ing letter  to  Mr.  Kellogg,  written  in  1840,  when  Brown  was 
temporarily  in  Hudson  again,  and  in  such  distressing  cir- 
cumstances that  he  had  not  the  means  to  pay  the  postage  for 
forwarding  two  letters  from  Mr.  Kellogg  which  had  been 
sent  to  him  at  Franklin  Mills:  '^ 


THE  MOULDING  OF  THE  MAN  31 

"That  means  are  so  very  limited  is  in  consequence  of  my  being 
left  penyless  for  the  time  being,  by  the  assignment  and  disposal  of 
my  property  with  no  less  than  a  family  of  ten  children  to  provide  for, 
the  sickness  of  my  wife  and  three  of  my  oldest  children  since  that 
time,  and  the  most  severe  pressure  generally  for  want  of  money  ever 
known  in  this  Country.  Specie  is  almost  out  of  the  question  and  no- 
thing but  specie  will  pay  our  postage.  ...  I  learned  a  good  while 
after  the  delivery  of  the  Flour  and  Wool,  to  my  further  mortification 
and  sorrow  that  they  had  not  been  forwarded  when  I  expected,  but 
was  assured  they  should  be  immediately.  I  hope  they  have  been 
received  safe,  and  I  most  earnestly  hope  that  the  Devine  Providence 
will  yet  enable  me  to  make  you  full  amends  for  all  the  wrong  I  have 
done,  and  to  give  you  and  my  abused  friend  Whitman  (whose  name 
I  feel  ashamed  to  mention)  some  evidence  that  the  injury  I  have 
occasioned  was  not  premeditated  and  intentional  at  least." 

In  pledging  himself  to  pay,  John  Brown  promised  to  prove 
"the  sincerity  of  my  past  professions,  when  legally  free  to  act 
as  I  choose."  "  At  his  death  in  1859,  this  debt  like  many 
another  was  still  unpaid,  and  John  Brown  bequeathed  fifty 
dollars  toward  its  payment  by  his  last  will  and  testament. 
It  was  not  only  that  he  was  visionary  as  a  business  man,  but 
that  he  developed  the  fatal  tendency  to  speculate,  doubtless 
an  outgrowth  of  his  restlessness  and  the  usual  desire  of  the 
bankrupt  for  a  sudden  coup  to  restore  his  fortunes. 

In  the  intervals  of  sheep  and  cattle  trading,  he  and  his 
father  conceived  the  idea  in  1840  of  taking  up  some  of  the 
Virginia  (now  in  Doddridge  and  Tyler  counties  of  West  Vir- 
ginia) land  belonging  to  Oberlin  College.  He  appeared  April  i, 
1840,  before  a  committee  of  Oberlin  trustees  and  opened  nego- 
tiations with  it  for  the  survey  and  purchase  of  some  of  the 
Virginia  possessions. ^^  Two  days  later,  the  full  board  con- 
sidered a  letter  from  John  Brown  in  which  he  offered  "to 
visit,  survey  and  make  the  necessary  investigation  respecting 
boundaries,  etc,  of  those  lands,  for  one  dollar  per  day,  and  a 
modest  allowance  for  necessary  expenses."  This  communica- 
tion also  stated  frankly  that  this  was  to  be  a  preliminary  step 
towards  locating  his  family  upon  the  lands,  "should  the  open- 
ing prove  a  favorable  one."  The  trustees  promptly  voted 
to  accept  the  offer,  and  the  treasurer  was  ordered  to  furnish 
John  Brown  with  "a  commission  &  needful  outfit."  This 
was  promptly  done  the  same  day,  and  by  the  27th  of  April, 
Brown  thus  wrote  from  Ripley,  Virginia,  to  his  wife  and  chil- 


32  JOHN  BROWN 

dren:  "  I  have  seen  the  spot  where,  if  it  be  the  will  of  Provi- 
dence, I  hope  one  day  to  live  with  my  family."  He  liked  the 
country  as  well  as  he  had  expected  to,  "and  its  inhabitants 
rather  better."  Were  they,  he  believed,  "as  resolute  and  in- 
dustrious as  the  Northern  people,  and  did  they  understand 
how  to  manage  as  well,  they  would  become  rich;  but  they  are 
not  generally  so."  That  John  Brown  did  not  subsequently 
settle  on  these  Virginia  lands  is  not,  however,  to  be  charged 
to  the  will  of  Providence,  but  to  himself.  His  surveys  and 
reports  were  duly  received  by  the  Oberlin  trustees  on  July 
14,  1840,  and  on  August  11  they  voted  to  address  a  letter 
to  him  on  the  subject.  Through  his  own  fault,  however,  nego- 
tiations dragged  so  that  the  whole  plan  fell  through.  This 
appears  from  John  Brown's  letters  to  Levi  Burnell,  the  trea- 
surer of  Oberlin,  who  had  duly  notified  him  that  the  Pruden- 
tial Committee  of  the  trustees  had  been  authorized  by  the 
board  to  perfect  negotiations  and  convey  to  "Brother  John 
Brown  of  Hudson  One  Thousand  acres  of  our  Virginia  Land 
on  conditions  suggested  in  the  correspondence  .  .  .  between 
him  and  the  Committee."  On  October  20,  Mr.  Burnell  wrote 
to  Owen  Brown  asking  for  the  status  of  the  negotiations.  He 
received  no  answer  from  John  Brown  until  January  2,  1841. 
This  reply  shows  that  the  latter  had  been  vacillating  through- 
out the  fall  as  to  whether  he  should  or  should  not  move  to 
Virginia,  and  runs  in  part  thus : 

"I  should  have  written  you  before  but  my  time  has  been  com- 
pletely taken  up,  and  owing  to  a  variety  of  circumstances  I  have 
sometimes  allmost  given  up  the  idea  of  going  to  the  south  at  all ;  but 
after  long  reflection,  and  consultation  about  it,  I  feel  prepared  to 
say  definitely  that  I  expect  Providence  willing  to  accept  the  pro- 
posal of  your  Board,  and  that  I  shall  want  every  thing  understood, 
and  aranged  as  nearly  as  may  be,  for  my  removal  in  the  next  Spring. 
I  would  here  say  that  I  shall  expect  to  receive  a  thousand  acres  of 
land  in  a  body  that  will  includ  a  living  spring  of  water  dischargeing 
itself  at  a  heighth  sufficient  to  accommodate  a  tanery  as  I  shall 
expect  to  pursue  that  business  on  the  small  scale  if  I  go.  It  is  my 
regular  occupation.  I  mentioned  several  such  springs  in  my  report, 
but  found  them  very  scarce." 

Meanwhile,  the  college  had  experienced  a  change  of  heart, 
apparently,  because  of  Brown's  procrastination,  as  appears 
from  his  letter  of  February  5,  1841,  to  Mr.  Burnell: 


THE  MOULDING  OF  THE  MAN  33 

Hudson  5th  Feby  1841 
Levi  Burnell  Esqr 

Dr  Sr:  I  have  just  returned  from  a  journey  to  Pa,  and  have  read 
yours  of  20th  Jany,  &  must  say  that  I  am  somewhat  disappointed 
in  the  information  which  it  brings ;  &  considering  all  that  has  passed, 
that  on  the  part  of  the  Institution  I  had  not  been  called  upon  to 
decide  positively  nor  even  advised  of  any  hurry  for  a  more  definite 
answer ;  &  that  on  my  part  I  had  never  intimated  any  other  than  an 
intention  to  accept  the  offer  made ;  nor  called  for  my  pay,  I  should 
think  your  Committee  would  have  done  nearer  the  thing  that  is 
right  had  they  at  least  signified  their  wish  to  know  my  determina-' 
tion,  before  putting  it  out  of  their  power  to  perform  what  they  had 
engaged.  Probably  I  was  not  so  prompt  in  makeing  up  my  mind 
fully,  &  in  communicating  my  determination  as  I  had  ought  to 
be,  &  if  Providence  intends  to  defeat  my  plans  there  is  no  doubt 
the  best  of  reasons  for  it,  &  we  will  rejoice  that  he  who  directs  the 
steps  of  men  knows  perfectly  well  how  to  direct  them ;  &  will  most 
assuredly  make  his  counsel  to  stand.  A  failure  of  the  consideration 
I  do  not  so  much  regard  as  the  derangement  of  my  plan  of  future 
opperations.  If  the  Virginia  lands  are,  or  are  not  disposed  of,  I  wish 
you  would  give  me  the  earliest  information,  &  in  the  event  of  their 
still  remaining  on  hand  I  suppose  it  not  unreasonable  for  me  still 
to  expect  a  fulfillment  of  the  offer  on  the  part  of  the  Institution. 
Should  the  land  be  conveyed  away  perhaps  your  Committee  or 
some  of  the  friends  might  still  be  instrumental  in  getting  me  an 
employment  at  the  south.  Please  write  me  as  soon  as  you  have 
any  information  to  give 

Respectfully  your  friend 

John  Brown. 

To  this  letter  no  answer  was  returned.  On  March  26, 
Brown  again  wrote  from  Hudson  asking  whether  the  lands 
had  been  sold.  If  the  committee  no  longer  wished  to  nego- 
tiate with  him,  they  need  only  say  so  frankly  and  send  him 
thirty  dollars  (for  which  he  had  waited  nearly  a  year), 
upon  receipt  of  which  he  would  "consider  the  institution 
discharged  from  all  further  obligation."  Thus  ended  the  first 
plan  for  an  exodus  of  the  John  Brown  family. 

As  a  result  of  this  disappointment.  Brown  was  compelled 
to  turn  to  sheep-herding,  taking  charge  in  the  spring  of  1841 
of  the  flocks  of  Captain  Oviatt  at  Richfield,  Ohio,  and  speed- 
ily becoming  known  as  a  remarkable  shepherd,  able  to  tell 
at  a  glance  the  presence  within  his  flock  of  a  strange  animal. 
This  partnership  arrangement  proving  satisfactory,  Brown 
again  moved  his  family,  in  1842,  to  Richfield,  where  he  had 


34  JOHN  BROWN 

the  great  misfortune  to  lose,  in  1843,  four  of  his  children,  aged 
respectively,  nine,  six,  three  and  one  years,  three  of  them 
being  buried  at  one  time,  —  a  crushing  family  calamity. 
The  beginning  of  the  family's  stay  in  Richfield  was  marked, 
too,  by  Brown's  discharge  as  a  bankrupt,  stripped  of  every- 
thing but  a  few  articles  which  the  court  had  decided  on  Sep- 
tember 28,  1842,  were  absolutely  necessary  to  the  maintenance 
of  the  family,  —  among  them  eleven  Bibles  and  Testaments, 
•one  volume  entitled  'Beauties  of  the  Bible,'  one  'Church 
Member's  Guide,'  besides  two  mares,  two  cows,  two  hogs, 
three  lambs,  nineteen  hens,  seven  sheep,  and,  last  of  all,  three 
pocket  knives  valued  at  37 J^  cents. ^^  Gradually,  Brown  be- 
came well  known  as  a  winner  of  prizes  for  sheep  and  cattle 
at  the  annual  fairs  of  Summit  County,  and  before  his  removal 
from  Richfield  to  Akron,  April  10,  1844,  he  had  established 
a  tannery  which,  at  the  beginning  of  that  year,  was  unable 
to  keep  up  with  the  business  offered  to  it.  This  change  of 
residence  was  due  to  the  establishment  of  a  new  business 
partnership,  the  longest  and  the  final  one  of  John  Brown's 
career.   It  was,  to  quote  him:^' 

"  a  copartnership  with  Simon  Perkins,  Jr.,  of  Akron,  with  a  view  to 
carry  on  the  sheep  business  extensively.  He  is  to  furnish  all  the  feed 
and  shelter  for  wintering,  as  a  set-off  against  our  taking  all  the  care 
of  the  flock.  All  other  expenses  we  are  to  share  equally,  and  to  divide 
the  profits  equally.  This  arrangement  will  reduce  our  cash  rents  at 
least  $250  yearly,  and  save  our  hiring  help  in  haying.  We  expect 
to  keep  the  Captain  Oviatt  farm  for  pasturing,  but  my  family  will 
go  into  a  very  good  house  belonging  to  Mr.  Perkins,  — say  from  a 
half  a  mile  to  a  mile  out  of  Akron.  I  think  this  is  the  most  com- 
fortable and  most  favorable  arrangement  of  my  worldly  concerns 
that  I  ever  had,  and  calculated  to  afford  us  more  leisure  for  im- 
provement, by  day  and  by  night,  than  any  other.  I  do  hope  that 
God  has  enabled  us  to  make  it  in  mercy  to  us,  and  not  that  he 
should  send  leanness  into  our  souls.  .  .  .  This,  I  think,  will  be  con- 
sidered no  mean  alliance  for  our  family,  and  I  most  earnestly  hope 
they  will  have  wisdom  given  to  make  the  most  of  it.  It  is  certainly 
indorsing  the  poor  bankrupt  and  his  family,  three  of  whom  were 
but  recently  in  Akron  jail,  in  a  manner  quite  unexpected,  and  proves 
that  notwithstanding  we  have  been  a  company  of  '  Belted  Knights,' 
our  industrious  and  steady  endeavors  to  maintain  our  integrity 
and  our  character  have  not  been  wholly  overlooked.  Mr.  Perkins 
is  perfectly  advised  of  our  poverty,  and  the  times  that  have  passed 
over  us." 


THE  MOULDING  OF  THE  MAN  35 

John  Brown  was  within  bounds  in  thus  exulting;  the  most 
trying  financial  periods  of  his  life  were  now  behind  him,  even 
though  the  Perkins  partnership  resulted  eventually  in  severe 
losses  and  dissolution.  At  least  it  was  a  connection  with  a 
high-minded  and  prosperous  man,  and  it  lasted  ten  years. 
When  it  was  over,  the  partners  were  still  friends,  but  Mr. 
Perkins  did  not  retain  a  high  opinion  of  John  Brown's  ability 
or  sagacity  as  a  business  man. 

It  was  a  lovely  neighborhood,  this  about  Akron,  to  which 
Brown  now  removed  his  family.  They  occupied  a  cottage 
on  what  is  still  known  as  Perkins  Hill,  near  Simon  Perkins's 
own  home,  with  an  extended  and  charming  view  over  hill 
and  dale,  —  an  ideal  sheep  country,  and  a  location  which 
must  have  attracted  any  one  save  a  predisposed  wanderer. 
Here  the  family  life  went  on  smoothly,  though  not  without 
its  tragedies,  notably  the  death  of  his  daughter  Amelia,  acci- 
dentally scalded  to  death  through  the  carelessness  of  an  elder 
sister.  This  brought  forth  from  the  afflicted  father,  who  was 
absent  in  Springfield,  the  following  letter:*^ 

Springfield  8th  Nov  1846 
Sabbath  evening 
My  Dear  afflicted  wife  &  children 

I  yesterday  at  night  returned  after  an  absence  of  several  days  from 
this  place  &  am  uterly  unable  to  give  any  expression  of  my  feelings 
on  hearing  of  the  dreadful  news  contained  in  Owens  letter  of  the 
30th  &  Mr.  Perkins  of  the  31st  Oct.  I  seem  to  be  struck  almost 
dumb. 

One  more  dear  little  feeble  child  I  am  to  meet  no  more  till  the 
dead  small  &  great  shall  stand  before  God.  This  is  a  bitter  cup 
indeed,  but  blessed  be  God :  a  brighter  day  shall  dawn ;  &  let  us  not 
sorrow  as  those  that  have  no  hope.  Oh  that  we  that  remain,  had 
wisdom  wisely  to  consider ;  &  to  keep  in  view  our  latter  end.  Divine 
Providence  seems  to  lay  a  heavy  burden;  &  responsibility  on  you 
my  dear  Mary ;  but  I  trust  you  will  be  enabled  to  bear  it  in  some 
measure  as  you  ought.  I  exceedingly  regret  that  I  am  unable  to 
return,  &  be  present  to  share  your  trials  with  you :  but  anxious  as  I 
am  to  be  once  more  at  home  I  do  not  feel  at  liberty  to  return  yet. 
I  hope  to  be  able  to  get  away  before  verry  long;  but  cannot  say 
when.  I  trust  that  none  of  you  will  feel  disposed  to  cast  an  unrea- 
sonable blame  on  my  dear  Ruth  on  account  of  the  dreadful  trial  we 
are  called  [to]  suffer;  for  if  the  want  of  proper  care  in  each,  &  all  ef 
us  has  not  been  attended  with  fatal  consequenses  it  is  no  thanks 
to  us.    If  I  had  a  right  sence  of  my  habitual  neglect  of  my  familys 


36  JOHN  BROWN 

Eternal  interests;  I  should  probably  go  crazy.  I  humbly  hope  this 
dreadful  afflictive  Providence  will  lead  us  all  more  properly  to  ap- 
preciate the  amazeing,  unforseen,  untold,  consequences;  that  hang 
upon  the  right  or  wrong  doing  of  things  seemingly  of  tnflmg  accourit. 
Who  can  tell  or  comprehend  the  vast  results  for  good,  or  for  evil ; 
that  are  to  follow  the  saying  of  one  little  word.  Evrythmg  worthy 
of  being  done  at  all ;  is  worthy  of  bemg  done  m  good  earnest,  &  m  the 
best  possible  manner.  We  are  in  midling  health  &  expect  to  write 
some  of  you  again  soon.  Our  warmest  thanks  to  our  kind  friends 
Mr.  &  Mrs.  Perkins  &  family.  From  your  affectionate  husband,  & 

father  ^  „ 

John  Brown 

While  Brown's  self-accusation  of  "habitual  neglect"  is 
no  more  to  be  borne  out  than  his  father's  charging  himself 
with  a  wasted  life,  it  is  true  that  some  of  his  neighbors  won- 
dered that  he  did  not  give  more  time  to  his  family.  That 
Akron  home  he  ruled,  as  he  did  the  later  one  at  Springfield, 
with  iron  firmness  and  complete  mastery,  and  as  long  as  the 
children  were  with  him  they  were  under  strict  discipline, 
although  the  cane  figured  now  but  little.  This  was  a  relief  to 
him  as  well  as  to  his  sons,  for  it  is  related  of  him  that  after 
he  had  given  only  a  certain  part  of  some  blows  he  meant  to 
bestow,  he  gave  his  whip  to  his  son  and  bade  him  strike  his 
father.'*^  Yet  he  exacted  loyalty  of  his  children  as  he  did 
fealty  from  his  animals.  It  is  a  widely  believed  story  in  Akron 
to  this  day  that  John  Brown  once  shot  —  to  the  horror  of 
the  children  —  a  valuable  shepherd  dog,  because  it  was  so 
fond  of  the  Perkins  children  as  to  be  unwilling  to  stay  at 
home.  It  is  similarly  narrated  that  he  compelled  his  wife  to 
ride  to  church  with  him  on  a  pillion  on  a  young  and  unbroken 
horse  he  wished  to  tame,  with  the  result  that  she  was  twice 
thrown. ^^  One  thing  is  beyond  doubt:  but  little  reference 
to  his  children's  schooling  appears  in  his  letters,  if  we  except 
those  written  to  his  daughter  Ruth  while  she  was  away  at 
school.  Only  John  Brown,  Jr.,  obtained  special  educational 
advantages. 

While  the  family  life  flowed  on  in  this  wise,  the  aftermath 
of  its  head's  business  failure  remained  to  plague  him  in  the 
shape  of  many  lawsuits.  On  the  records  of  the  Portage 
County  Court  of  Common  Pleas  at  Ravenna,  Ohio,  are  no 
less  than  twenty-one  lawsuits  in  which  John  Brown  figured 


THE  MOULDING  OF  THE  MAN  37 

as  defendant  during  the  years  from  1820  to  1845."  Of  these, 
thirteen  were  actions  brought  to  recover  money  loaned  on 
promissory  notes  either  to  Brown  singly  or  in  company  with 
others.  The  remaining  suits  were  mostly  for  claims  for  wages 
or  payments  due,  or  for  non-fulfilment  of  contracts.  Judg- 
ment against  Brown  was  once  entered  by  his  consent  for  a 
nominal  sum,  and  another  case  was  an  amicable  suit  in  debt. 
In  ten  other  cases  he  was  successfully  sued  and  judgments 
were  obtained  against  him  individually  or  jointly  with  others. 
In  three  cases  those  who  sued  him  were  "non-suited"  as 
being  without  real  cause  for  action,  and  two  Other  cases  were 
settled  out  of  court.  Four  cases  Brown  won,  among  them 
being  a  suit  for  damages  for  false  arrest  and  assault  and  bat- 
tery, brought  by  an  alleged  horse-thief  because  Brown  and 
other  citizens  had  aided  a  constable  in  arresting  him.  A  num- 
ber of  these  suits  grew  out  of  Brown's  failure  and  his  real 
estate  speculations.  A  serious  litigation  was  an  action  brought 
by  the  Bank  of  Wooster  to  recover  on  a  bill  of  exchange  drawn 
by  Brown  and  others  on  the  Leather  Manufacturers  Bank  of 
New  York,  and  repudiated  by  that  institution  on  the  ground 
that  Brown  and  his  associates  had  no  money  in  the  bank. 
During  the  suit  the  original  amount  claimed  was  rapidly  re- 
duced, and  when  the  judgment  against  Brown  and  his  associ- 
ates was  rendered,  it  was  for  $917.65.  In  June,  1842,  Brown 
was  sued  by  Tertius  Wadsworth  and  Joseph  Wells,  in  partner- 
ship with  whom  he  had  been  buying  and  driving  cattle  to 
Connecticut.  In  1845,  Daniel  C.  Gaylord,  who  several  times 
had  sued  Brown,  succeeded  in  compelling  Brown  and  his  as- 
sociates to  convey  to  him  certain  Franklin  lands  which  they 
had  contracted  to  sell,  but  the  title  for  which  they  refused 
to  convey.  The  court  upheld  Gaylord's  claim.  The  only  case 
in  which  Brown  figured  as  plaintiff  was  settled  out  of  court 
in  his  favor. 

But  the  most  important  suit  of  Brown's  business  life,  and 
the  one  which  has  been  oftenest  cited  to  injure  his  business 
reputation,  was  a  complicated  one  which  grew  out  of  one 
of  these  Ravenna  cases.  ^^  On  July  11,  1836,  he  applied  to 
Heman  Oviatt,  Frederick  Brown,  Joshua  Stow  and  three 
brothers  of  the  name  of  Wetmore,  to  become  security  for  him 
on  a  note  to  the  Western  Reserve  Bank  for  $6000.    The  note 


38  JOHN  BROWN 

not  being  paid,  the  bank  sued  and  obtained  judgment  against 
ail  of  them  in  May,  1837,  and  on  August  2,  1837.  they  all 
gave  their  joint  judgment  bond  to  the  bank,  payable  in  sixty 
days.  This  not  being  paid,  the  bank  again  sued,  and,  an 
execution  being  issued,  Heman  Oviatt  was  compelled  to  pay 
the  bank  in  full.  He  then  in  turn  sued  John  Brown  and 
his  fellow  endorsers.  The  litigation  which  followed  was 
greatly  complicated  by  Brown's  actions  in  connection  with 
a  piece  of  property  known  as  Westlands,  for  which  he  had  at 
first  not  the  title,  but  a  penal  bond  of  conveyance.  Brown 
gave  this  bond  to  Oviatt  as  collateral  for  Oviatt's  having  en- 
dorsed the  judgment  bond  to  the  bank.  When  the  deed  for 
the  Westlands  property  was  duly  given  to  Brown,  he  recorded 
it  without  notifying  Oviatt  of  this  action.  Later,  he  mortgaged 
this  property  to  two  men,  again  without  the  knowledge  of 
Heman  Oviatt.  Meanwhile  Daniel  C.  Gaylord  had  recovered 
judgment  against  Brown  in  another  transaction,  and  to  sat- 
isfy it,  caused  the  sale  of  Westlands  by  the  sherifif.  At  John 
Brown's  request,  Amos  P.  Chamberlain,  heretofore  a  warm 
friend  and  business  associate  of  Brown's,  bought  in  the  pro- 
perty at  the  sheriff's  sale,  doubtless  with  the  idea  that  Brown 
would  presently  find  the  money  to  buy  it  back  for  himself. 
But  as  soon  as  Oviatt  was  compelled  to  pay  off  the  judgment 
bond  at  the  Western  Reserve  Bank,  he  naturally  wished  to 
reimburse  himself  by  the  penal  bond  of  conveyance  of  West- 
lands,  which,  he  felt,  gave  him  the  title  to  the  property.  Find- 
ing that,  through  the  land  transactions  already  related,  the 
penal  bond  had  become  valueless,  he  brought  suit  to  have 
the  sale  of  Westlands  to  Chamberlain  set  aside  as  fraudulent. 
The  Supreme  Court  of  Ohio  held  that  Chamberlain  had  a 
rightful  title  and  dismissed  the  suit.  John  Brown  himself  was 
not  directly  sued  by  Oviatt,  being,  to  use  a  lawyer's  term, 
"legally  safe"  throughout  the  entire  transaction.  From  the 
point  of  view  of  probity  and  fair  play  he  does  not,  however, 
escape  criticism.  He  was  morally  bound  to  reimburse  those 
who  had  aided  him  to  obtain  the  money  from  the  bank  and 
had  suffered  thereby.  Even  after  this  lapse  of  years,  his  action 
in  secretly  recording  the  transfer  of  the  land  and  then  mort- 
gaging it  bears  an  unpleasant  aspect.  It  is  quite  probable  that 
this  complication  was  due  to  the  great  confusion  of  Brown's 


THE  MOULDING  OF  THE  MAN  39 

affairs,  and  his  own  poor  business  head.  Moreover,  it  may 
well  be  that  in  due  course  Oviatt  and  the  other  securities 
were  repaid  in  full  by  Brown  during  his  period  of  prosperity 
with  Mr.  Perkins.  Certainly,  as  already  stated,  Heman  Oviatt 
bore  Brown  no  grudge  in  after  years.  On  the  other  hand, 
Brown  may  have  taken  advantage  of  the  bankruptcy  pro- 
ceedings to  escape  liability  for  these  debts. 

The  story  of  this  case  does  not,  however,  end  here.  John 
Brown  refused  for  a  time  to  give  up  Westlands  to  Amos  Cham- 
berlain, believing  that  he  had  the  right  to  pasture  his  cattle 
there  temporarily,  and  still,  apparently,  thinking  that  Cham- 
berlain had  purchased  the  farm  not  for  occupancy  but  for 
the  purpose  of  turning  it  back  to  him.  After  having  repeat- 
edly summoned  Chamberlain  for  trespass  on  the  land  which 
Chamberlain  had  actually  purchased,  John  Brown  and  his 
sons  held  a  shanty  on  the  place  by  force  of  arms  until  com- 
pelled to  desist  by  the  arrival  of  the  sheriff  summoned  by 
Chamberlain.  According  to  the  Chamberlain  family,  John 
Brown  ordered  his  sons  to  shoot  Chamberlain  if  he  set  foot 
on  the  farm,  —  a  statement  vigorously  denied  by  John  Brown, 
Jr.  Jason  Brown  recollects  that  "father  put  us  all  in  the 
cabin  on  the  farm  with  some  old-fashioned  muskets  and  we 
stayed  in  it  night  and  day.  Then  Mr.  Chamberlain  sued 
father  and  sent  a  constable  and  his  posse  to  drive  us  out. 
We  showed  them  our  guns.  Then  he  got  the  sheriff  of  Port- 
age County  to  come  out  and  arrest  us.  Of  course  we  could 
not  resist  the  sheriff."  Finally  the  sheriff  arrested  John  Brown 
and  two  sons,  John  and  Owen,  who  were  thereupon  placed 
in  the  Akron  jail.  Chamberlain,  having  destroyed  the  shanty 
which  Brown  had  occupied  and  obtained  possession  of  the 
land,  allowed  the  case  to  drop,  and  Brown  and  his  sons  were 
released." 

Fortunately  for  John  Brown's  side  of  the  case,  there  has 
just  come  to  light  a  letter  he  wrote  to  Mr.  Chamberlain  in 
order  to  prevent,  if  possible,  the  carrying  on  of  a  long  litigation. 
It  records  the  spirit  in  which  John  Brown  acted,  and  proves 
him  to  have  been  sincerely  of  the  opinion  that  he  had  been 
gravely  wronged,  and  that,  in  holding  his  farm  as  he  did,  Mr. 
Chamberlain  not  only  injured  Brown,  but  also  the  latter's 
innocent  creditors.    No  one  can  maintain,  after  the  perusal 


40  JOHN   BROWN 

of  this  communication,  that  Brown  was  unreasoning  in  the 
matter,  or  that  he  was  deliberately  trying  to  defraud  a  neigh- 
bor of  land  righteously  purchased.  It  is  altogetherhkely  that 
if  similar  documents  in  regard  to  the  other  cases  cited,  which 
appear,  on  the  surface,  to  make  against  John  Brown's  probity, 
could  be  found,  these  other  entanglements  would  also  be 
susceptible  of  a  far  better  interpretation.  The  letter  to  Mr. 
Chamberlain,  offering  peace  or  arbitration  before  war,  reads 

as  follows :  ^'' 

Hudson  27th  April  1841 
Mr.  Amos  Chamberlain 

Dear  Sir 

I  was  yesterday  makeing  preparation  for  the  commencement 
and  vigorous  prosecution  of  a  tedious,  distressing,  wasteing,  and 
long  protracted  war,  but  after  hearing  by  my  son  of  some  remarks 
you  made  to  him  I  am  induced  before  I  proceed  any  further  in  the 
way  of  hostile  preparation:  to  stop  and  make  one  more  earnest 
effort  for  Peace  And  let  me  begin  by  assureing  you  that  notwith- 
standing I  feel  myself  to  be  deeply  and  sorely  injured  by  you,  (with- 
out even  the  shadow  of  a  provocation  on  my  part  to  tempt  you 
to  begin  as  you  did  last  October ;)  I  have  no  conciousness  of  wish 
to  injure  either  yourself  or  any  of  your  family  nor  to  interfere  with 
your  happiness,  no  not  even  to  value  of  one  hair  of  your  head.  I 
perfectly  well  remember  the  uniform  good  understanding  and  good 
feeling  which  had  ever  (previous  to  last  fall)  existed  between  us 
from  our  youth.  I  have  not  forgotten  the  days  of  cheerful  labour 
which  we  have  performed  together,  nor  the  acts  of  mutual  kindness 
and  accomodation  which  have  passed  between  us.  I  can  assure  you 
that  I  ever  have  been  and  still  am  your  honest,  hearty  friend.  I 
have  looked  with  sincere  gratification  uppon  your  steady  growing 
prosperity,  and  flattering  prospects  of  your  young  family.  I  have 
made  your  happiness  and  prosperity  my  own  instead  of  feeling 
envious  at  your  success.  When  I  antisipated  a  return  to  Hudson 
with  my  family  I  expected  great  satisfaction  from  again  haveing 
you  for  a  neighbour.  This  is  true  whatever  you  may  think  of  me,  or 
whatever  representation  you  may  make  of  me  to  others.  And  now 
I  ask  you  why  will  you  trample  on  the  rights  of  your  friend  and  of  his 
numerous  family?  Is  it  because  he  is  poor?  Why  will  you  kneed- 
lessly  make  yourself  the  means  of  depriveing  all  my  honest  creditors 
of  their  Just  due?  Ought  not  my  property  if  it  must  be  sacrifised  to 
fall  into  the  hands  of  honest  and  some  of  them  poor  and  suffering 
Creditors?  Will  God  smile  on  the  gains  which  you  may  acquire  at 
the  expence  of  suffering  families  deprived  of  their  honest  dues?  And 
let  me  here  ask  Have  you  since  you  bid  off  that  farm  felt  the  same 
inward  peace  and  conciousness  of  right  you  had  before  felt?  I  do 
not  believe  you  have,  and  for  this  plain  reason  that  you  have  been 


THE  MOULDING  OF  THE  MAN  41 

industrious  in  circulateing  evil  reports  of  me  (as  I  believe)  in  order  to 
prevent  the  community  from  enquiring  into  your  motives  and  con- 
duct. This  is  perfectly  natural,  and  no  new  thing  under  the  sun.  If 
it  could  be  made  to  appear  that  Naboth  the  Jezreelite  had  blas- 
phemed God  and  the  King,  then  it  would  be  perfectly  right  for  Ahab 
to  possess  his  vineyard.  So  reasoned  wicked  men  thousands  of  years 
ago.  I  ask  my  old  friend  again  is  your  path  a  path  of  peace?  does 
it  promise  peace?  I  have  two  definite  things  to  offer  you  once  and 
for  all.  One  is  that  you  take  ample  security  of  Seth  Thompson  for 
what  you  have  paid  and  for  what  you  may  have  to  pay  (which 
D.  C.  Gaylord  has  ever  wickedly  refused)  and  release  my  farm  and 
thereby  provide  for  yourself  an  honorable  and  secure  retreat  out  of 
the  strife  and  perplexity  and  restore  you  to  peace  with  your  friends 
and  with  yourself.  The  other  is  that  if  you  do  not  like  that  offer, 
that  you  submit  the  matter  to  disinterested,  discreet,  and  good  men 
to  say  what  is  just  and  honest  between  us. 

You  may  ask  why  do  not  you  go  to  Thompson  for  your  relief.  I 
answer  that  I  should  do  so  at  once,  but  I  cannot  recover  anything  of 
Thompson  but  the  face  of  the  note  and  interest,  nothing  for  all  the 
costs,  and  expences,  and  penalties  and  sacrifise  of  my  property. 
All  Thompson  is  either  morally  or  legally  bound  to  pay  is  the  note 
and  interest.  He  is  an  inocent  and  honest  debtor  and  when  in  his  low 
state  of  health,  and  the  extreme  pressure  he  could  not  pay  the  money 
promptly  came  forward  [and]  offered  his  land  as  security.  That 
security  is  still  kept  for  the  purpose,  as  I  positively  know  any  state- 
ments to  the  contrary  notwithstanding. 

I  now  ask  you  to  read  this  letter  calmly,  and  -patiently,  and  often, 
and  show  it  to  your  neighbours,  and  friends,  such  as  Mr.  Zina  Post 
and  many  other  worthy  men  and  advise  with  them  before  you  at- 
tempt to  force  your  way  any  further.  I  ask  you  to  make  it  your  first 
business  and  give  me  without  delay  your  final  determination  in 
regard  to  it. 

Respectfully  your  friend 

John  Brown. 

This  appeal  to  reason  and  friendliness  ought  to  have  soft- 
ened Mr.  Chamberlain's  heart.  No  one  now  knows  just  what 
the  result  was;  but  since  there  is  no  evidence  of  a  "tedious, 
distressing,  wasteing,  and  long  protracted  war"  between  the 
neighbors,  it  is  likely  that  it  had  its  effect.  At  any  rate,  it 
closes  a  chapter  of  John  Brown's  business  life  which,  besides 
occasioning  him  deep  and  poignant  distress,  left  its  marks 
upon  him.  Had  he  not,  however,  been  withal  a  strong,  seri- 
ous and  fundamentally  honest  character,  he  must  have  been 
completely  wrecked  upon  the  shoals  out  of  which,  with  Mr. 
Perkins's  aid,  he  was  now  to  find  his  way. 


CHAPTER   II 
"HIS  GREATEST  OR  PRINCIPAL  OBJECT" 

When  was  it  that  John  Brown,  practical  shepherd,  tanner, 
farmer,  surveyor,  cattle  expert,  real  estate  speculator  and 
wool-merchant,  first  conceived  what  he  calls  in  his  autobio- 
graphy "his  greatest  or  principal  object"  in  life  —  the  forci- 
ble overthrow  of  slavery  in  his  native  land?  The  question 
is  not  an  idle  one,  since  the  object  adopted  as  the  magnetic 
needle  to  guide  his  destiny  eventually  resulted  in  the  rousing 
of  a  nation  to  its  smallest  hamlet,  and  beyond  doubt  pre- 
cipitated the  bloody  civil  war  which  others  besides  John 
Brown  clearly  foresaw.  The  mystery  of  individuality  does 
not  lose  anything  of  its  spell  with  the  passage  of  time;  in 
the  case  of  this  strongly  marked  character,  there  is  nothing 
concerning  it  of  greater  interest  than  the  transformation  of 
the  simple  guardian  of  flocks  and  tiller  of  the  soil,  Spartan 
in  his  rugged  simplicity  of  living,  into  an  arch-plotter,  a 
man  of  many  disguises,  a  belligerent  pioneer,  a  fugitive  be- 
fore the  law  at  one  moment  and  an  assailant  of  a  sovereign 
government  in  the  next.  Psychologists  must  find  in  such  an 
evolution  of  spirit  a  field  for  inquiry  and  speculation  without 
end.  Why  should  one  who  so  hated  the  profession  of  arms  be 
the  first  to  take  it  up  in  order  to  free  the  slave  from  his  chains? 
What  was  there  in  the  humdrum  life  of  an  Ohio  farmer  to 
cause  him  to  espouse  the  role  of  a  border-chieftain  in  the 
middle  of  the  nineteenth  century?  From  what  midnight  star 
did  this  shepherd  draw  his  inspiration  to  go  forth  and  kill? 
What  was  there  in  the  process  of  tanning  to  make  a  man  who 
had  never  seen  blood  spilt  in  anger  ready  to  blot  out  the  lives 
of  other  beings  whose  chief  crime  was  that  they  differed  with 
him  as  to  the  righteousness  of  human  bondage?  Why  should 
the  restless  iron  spirit  of  the  Roundhead  suddenly  have  mani- 
fested itself  in  this  prosaic  seller  of  town  lots  when  he  had 
spent  more  than  five  decades  in  peace  and  quiet?  Doubtless 
the  answer  to  some  of  these  questions  must  be  left  to  the  new 
science  which  would  plot  and  chart  the  soul,  and  measure  to 


HIS  GREATEST  OR  PRINCIPAL  OBJECT       43 

the  hundredth  of  a  degree  each  quivering  emotion.  But  the 
historian  may  properly  inquire  when  it  was  that  the  "greatest 
or  principal  object"  of  this  militant  reformer's  life  first  began 
to  manifest  itself  in  his  acts  and  deeds. 

John  Brown's  horror  of  the  South's  "peculiar  institution," 
as  it  affected  individuals,  we  know  to  have  come  to  him,  as 
the  autobiography  again  testifies,  at  the  age  of  twelve,  when, 
he  says,  he  declared,  or  swore,  "eternal  war  with  slavery." 
But  the  oaths' of  a  lad  of  such  tender  years  do  not  often  be- 
come the  guiding  force  of  maturity;  in  John  Brown's  case, 
not  even  his  constant  friendliness  to  fugitive  slaves  permits 
the  assumption  that  early  in  his  manhood  he  had  definitely 
resolved  upon  the  plan  of  overthrowing  slavery  by  men  and 
arms  which  he  finally  chose.  Not  until  his  thirty-fifth  yea? 
is  there  direct  documentary  evidence  that  his  mind  was  espe- 
cially concerning  itself  with  the  welfare  of  the  black  man  in 
bondage,  —  that  is,  to  any  greater  extent  than  were  the  minds 
and  consciences  of  hundreds,  if  not  thousands,  of  Ohio  farmers 
who  were  later  among  the  strongest  enemies  of  human  laond- 
age,  and  even  then  were  dauntless  station-masters  and  con- 
ductors on  the  rapidly  expanding  Underground  Railroad.  In 
November,  1834,  when  John  Brown's  stay  in  Pennsylvania 
was  actually  within  six  months  of  its  close,  when  he  was, 
however,  apparently  to  remain  in  Richmond  as  a  successful 
tanner  and  farmer,  he  first  expressed  on  paper  a  wish  to  aid 
his  fellow-Americans  in  chains.  It  is  in  the  following  epistle 
to  his  brother  Frederick,  unstamped  because  it  bears  the 
frank  of  John  Brown,  then  still  postmaster  at  Randolph,  of 
which  Richmond  was  a  part :  * 

Randolph,  Nov.  21,  1834. 
Dear  Brother,  —  As  I  have  had  only  one  letter  from  Hudson 
since  you  left  here,  and  that  some  weeks  since,  I  begin  to  get  uneasy 
and  apprehensive  that  all  is  not  well.  I  had  satisfied  my  mind  about 
it  for  some  time,  in  expectation  of  seeing  father  here,  but  I  begin  to 
give  that  up  for  the  present.  Since  you  left  here  I  have  been  trying 
to  devise  some  means  whereby  I  might  do  something  in  a  practical 
way  for  my  poor  fellow-men  who  are  in  bondage,  and  having  fully 
consulted  the  feelings  of  my  wife  and  my  three  boys,  we  have  agreed 
to  get  at  least  one  negro  boy  or  youth,  and  bring  him  up  as  we  do 
our  own,  —  viz.,  give  him  a  good  English  education,  learn  him  what 
we  can  about  the  history  of  the  world,  about  business,  about  general 


44  JOHN  BROWN 

subjects,  and,  above  all,  try  to  teach  him  the  fear  of  God.  We  think 
of  three  ways  to  obtain  one:  First,  to  try  to  get  some  Christian 
slave-holder  to  release  one  to  us.  Second,  to  get  a  free  one  if  no  one 
will  let  us  have  one  that  is  a  slave.  Third,  if  that  does  not  succeed, 
we  hav6  all  agreed  to  submit  to  considerable  privation  in  order  to 
buy  one.  This  we  are  now  using  means  in  order  to  effect,  in  the  con- 
fident expectation  that  God  is  about  to  bring  them  all  out  of  the 
house  of  bondage. 

I  will  just  mention  that  when  this  subject  was  first  introduced, 
Jason  had  gone  to  bed;  but  no  sooner  did  he  hear  tbe  thing  hinted, 
than  his  warm  heart  kindled,  and  he  turned  out  to  have  a  part  in 
the  discussion  of  a  subject  of  such  exceeding  interest.  I  have  for, 
years  been  trying  to  devise  some  way  to  get  a  school  a-going  here 
for  blacks,  and  I  think  that  on  many  accounts  it  would  be  a  most 
favorable  location.  Children  here  would  have  no  intercourse  with 
vicious  people  of  their  own  kind,  nor  with  openly  vicious  persons 
of  any  kind.  There  would  be  no  powerful  opposition  influence 
against  such  a  thing;  and  should  there  be  any,  I  believe  the  settle- 
ment might  be  so  effected  in  future  as  to  have  almost  the  whole  iri- 
fluence  of  the  place  in  favor  of  such  a  school.  Write  me  how  you 
would  like  to  join  me,  and  try  to  get  on  from  Hudson  and  there- 
abouts some  firstrate  abolitionist  families  with  you.  I  do  honestly 
believe  that  our  united  exertions  alone  might  soon,  with  the  good 
hand  of  our  God  upon  us,  effect  it  all. 

This  has  been  with  me  a  favorite  theme  of  reflection  for  years. 
I  think  that  a  place  which  might  be  in  some  measure  settled  with 
a  view  to  such  an  object  would  be  much  more  favorable  to  such 
an  undertaking  than  would  any  such  place  as  Hudson,  with  all  its 
conflicting  interests  and  feelings;  and  I  do  think  such  advantages 
ought  to  be  afforded  the  young  blacks,  whether  they  are  all  to  be 

Timmediately  set  free  or  not.  Perhaps  we  might,  under  God,  in 
that  way  do  more  towards  breaking  their  yoke  effectually  than 
in  any  other.  If  the  young  blacks  of  our  country  could  once  be- 
come enlightened,  it  would  most  assuredly  operate  on  slavery  like 

^firing  powder  confined  in  rock,  and  all  slaveholders  know  it  well. 
Witness  their  heaven-daring  laws  against  teaching  blacks.  If  once 
the  Christians  in  the  free  States  would  set  to  work  in  earnest  in 
teaching  the  blacks,  the  people  of  the  slaveholding  States  would 
find  themselves  constitutionally  driven  to  set  about  the  work  of 
emancipation  immediately.  The  laws  of  this  State  are  now  such 
that  the  inhabitants  of  any  township  may  raise  by  a  tax  in  aid  of 
the  State  school-fund  any  amount  of  money  they  may  choose  by 
a  vote,  for  the  purpose  of  common  schools,  which  any  child  may 
have  access  to  by  application.  If  you  will  join  me  in  this  under- 
taking, I  will  make  with  you  any  arrangement  of  our  temporal 
concerns  that  shall  be  fair.  Our  health  is  good,  and  our  prospects 
about  business  rather  brightening. 

Affectionately  yours,  John  Brown. 


HIS  GREATEST  OR  PRINCIPAL  OBJECT       45 

It  will  be  noticed,  as  has  heretofore  been  pointed  out,'  that 
there  is  here  a  total  absence  of  any  belligerent  intention 
on  the  writer's  part;  he  who  afterwards  became  disgusted 
with  the  Abolitionists  because  their  propaganda  involved  talk 
alone,  and  no  violent  physical  action  against  slavery,  was 
planning,  when  nearly  thirty-five,  nothing  more  startling  than 
a  school  for  blacks,  confident  in  the  belief  that  their  educa- 
tion in  the  North  would  shatter  the  whole  system  of  slavery  in 
the  South,  and  turning  for  aid  exclusively  to  friends  in  his 
former  Ohio  home.  Again,  he  shows  no  knowledge  of  the  pre- 
judice in  the  North  against  teaching  blacks  which  had  resulted 
in  his  native  State  in  the  suppression  of  schools  for  them  in 
New  Haven  in  1831,  and  in  Canterbury  in  1834.  Throughout 
his  correspondence  of  these  years,  and  later,  there  is  little 
to  indicate  that  Brown  was  in  touch  with  much  of  what  was 
going  on  in  the  nation.  Indeed,  as  late  as  June  22,  1844,  he 
wrote  to  his  family,  "I  am  extremely  ignorant  at  present  of 
miscellaneous  subjects."'  It  is  the  recollection  of  the  family, 
however,  that  before  this  time  they  were  called  upon  by  their 
father  to  take  a  solemn  oath  to  do  all  in  their  power  to  abolish 
slavery,  after  hearing  from  him  of  his  purpose  of  attacking 
the  institution.  Jason  Brown  fixes  the  d^te  of  this  event  at 
1839,  the  place  as  Franklin,  and  those  yho  were  party  to  it 
as  Mrs.  Brown,  a  colored  preacher,  Fayette  by  name,  and 
the  three  sons,  John,  Jr.,  Jason  and  Owen.  He  specifies  merely 
that  they  were  sworn  "to  do  all  in  their  power  to  abolish 
slavery,"  and  does  not  use  the  word  "  force."  John  Brown,  Jr., 
writing  to  F.  B.  Sanborn  in  December,  1890,  thus  expressed 
his  opinion :  * 

"It  is,  of  course,  impossible  for  me  to  say  when  such  idea  and 
plan  first  entered  his  [John  Brown's]  mind  and  became  a  purpose; 
but  I  can  say  with  certainty  that  he  first  informed  his  family  that 
he  entertained  such  purpose  while  we  were  yet  living  in  Franklin, 
O.  (now  called  Kent),  and  before  he  went  to  Virginia,  in  1840,  to 
survey  the  lands  which  had  been  donated  by  Arthur  Tappan  to 
Oberlin  College;  and  this  was  certainly  as  early  as  1839.  The  place 
and  the  circumstances  where  he  first  informed  us  of  that  purpose 
are  as  perfectly  in  my  memory  as  any  other  event  in  my  life.  Fa- 
ther, mother,  Jason,  Owen  and  I  were,  late  in  the  evening,  seated 
around  the  fire  in  the  open  fire-place  of  the  kitchen,  in  the  old 
Haymaker  house  where  we  then  lived ;  and  there  he  first  informed 


46  JOHN  BROWN 

us  of  his  determination  to  make  war  on  slavery — not  such  war  as 
Mr.  Garrison*  informs  us  'was  equally  the  purpose  of  the  non- 
resistant  abolitionists,'  but  war  by  force  and  arms.  He  said  that 
he  had  long  entertained  such  a  purpose  —  that  he  believed  it  his 
duty  to  devote  his  life,  if  need  be,  to  this  object,  which  he  madeus 
fully  to  understand.  After  spending  considerable  time  in  setting 
forth  in  most  impressive  language  the  hopeless  condition  of  the 
slave,  he  asked  who  of  us  were  willing  to  make  common  cause  with 
him  in  doing  all  in  our  power  to  'break  the  jaws  of  the  wicked  and 
pluck  the  spoil  out  of  his  teeth,'  naming  each  of  us  in  succession, 
Are  you,  Mary,  John,  Jason,  and  Owen?  Receiving  an  affirmative 
answer  from  each,  he  kneeled  in  prayer,  and  all  did  the  same.  This 
posture  in  prayer  impressed  me  greatly  as  it  was  the  first  time  I 
had  ever  known  him  to  assume  it.  After  prayer  he  asked  us  to  raise 
our  right  hands,  and  he  then  administered  to  us  an  oath,  the  exact 
terms  of  which  I  cannot  recall,  but  in  substance  it  bound  us  to 
secrecy  and  devotion  to  the  purpose  of  fighting  slavery  by  force 
and  arms  to  the  extent  of  our  ability.  According  to  Jason's  recol- 
lections, Mr.  Fayette,  a  colored  theological  student  at  Western 
Reserve  College,  Hudson,  Ohio,  was  with  us  at  the  time  but  of  this 
I  am  not  certain." 

It  must  be  noted  here  that  in  this  letter  John  Brown,  Jr., 
gives  the  date  of  the  oath  as  1839;  in  his  lengthy  affidavit  in 
the  case  of  Gerrit  Smith  against  the  Chicago  Tribune,  he 
gave  the  date  as  1836,  three  years  earlier,  and  in  an  account 
given  in  Mr.  Sanborn's  book  he  placed  it  at  1837;  three  dis- 
tinct times  for  the  same  event.  It  can,  therefore,  best  be 
stated  as  occurring  before  1840.^  At  this  time,  John  Brown, 
Jr.,  was  in  his  nineteenth  year,  Jason  about  sixteen  years 
old,  and  Owen  between  fourteen  and  fifteen.  The  only  tes- 
timony as  to  an  early  project  akin  to  that  of  the  final  raid, 
available  from  any  one  else  outside  the  family,  is  that  of 
George  B.  Delamater,"  who  say^.vl' Having  spent  several  days 
and  nights  with  Old  John  Brown^^lsvarious  times  between 
1840  and  1844,  I  enjoyed  his  society  and^ras  made  acquainted 
with  his  views  in  regard  to  American  sla-^ery  and  its  rela- 
tions at  that  time  from  various  standpoints,  and  also  with 
the  scheme  which  he  had  under  consideration  for  freeing 
persons  held  in  bondage."  Mr.  Delamater  at  this  period  was 
a  mere  stripling;  it  is  an  interesting  contrast  to  his  recollec- 
tions that  Mr.  Foreman,  in  his  long  account  of  John  Brown's 

*  Wendell  Phillips  Garrison,  in  The  Preludes  of  Harper's  Ferry. 


HIS  GREATEST  OR  PRINCIPAL  OBJECT       47 

stay  at  Richmond  from  1825  to  1835,  makes  no  mention  of 
having  heard  of  any  deliberate  project;  yet  he  was  much 
older  and  more  intimate  with  Brown  than  was  Mr.  Delamater, 
who,  in  this  earlier  Richmond  period,  was  only  a  school-boy. 
That  the  subject  was  undoubtedly  much  in  his  mind  prior 
to  this  appears  again  from  an  anecdote  related  by  General 
Henry  B.  Carrington,  and  placed  by  him  in  the  year  1836, 
although  probably  occurring  in  1838,  when  there  is  the  first 
definite  record  of  John  Brown's  having  been  in  Connecticut 
after  his  school  days.  General  Carrington  thus  tells  this  inci- 
dent of  his  boyhood : ' 

"When  I  was  a  boy  and  Vient  to  school  in  Torrington,  there  came 
into  the  school  room  one  day  a  tall  man,  rather  slender,  with  gray- 
ish hair,  who  said  to  the  boys :  '  I  want  to  ask  you  some  questions 
in  geography.  Where  is  Africa?'  'It  is  on  the  other  side  of  the 
ocean, of  course,' said  a  boy.  'Why  "of  course,"  '  asked  the  man. 
The  boy  could  n't  say  why  'of  course.'  Then  the  man  proceeded  to 
tell  them  something  about  Africa  and  the  negroes,  and  the  evil  of 
the  slave  trade,  and  the  wrongs  and  sufferings  of  the  slaves,  and 
then  said,  'How  many  of  you  boys  will  agree  to  use  your  influence, 
whatever  it  may  be,  against  this  great  curse,  when  you  grow  up?' 
They  held  up  their  hands.  He  then  said  that  he  was  afraid  that 
some  of  them  might  forget  it,  and  added,  '  Now  I  want  those  who 
are  quite  sure  that  they  will  not  forget  it,  who  will  promise  to  use 
their  time  and  influence  toward  resisting  this  evil,  to  rise.'  Another 
boy  and  I  stood  up.  Then  this  man  put  his  hands  on  our  heads 
and  said,  'Now  may  my  Father  in  Heaven,  who  is  your  Father,  and 
who  is  the  Father  of  the  African;  and  Christ,  who  is  my  Master 
and  Saviour,  and  your  Master  and  Saviour,  and  the  Master  and 
Saviour  of  the  African;  and  the  Holy  Spirit,  which  gives  me  strength 
and  comfort,  when  I  need  it,  and  will  give  you  strength  and  com- 
fort when  you  need  it,  and  which  gives  strength  and  comfort  to 
the  African,  enable  you  to  keep  this  resolution  which  you  have 
now  taken.'  And  that  man  was  John  Brown." 

Most  important  after  that  of  the  Brown  family  is  the  tes- 
timony of  Frederick  Douglass,  the  colored  leader,  who  states 
in  his  autobiography  «  that  Brown  confided  the  Virginia  plan 
to  him,  without  specifying  Harper's  Ferry  or  speaking  of  the 
arsenal,  "about  the  time"  he  began  his  newspaper  enterprise 
in  Rochester  in  1847,  and  among  other  details  added  that 
Brown  explained  his  frugal  manner  of  living  by  his  wish  to 
lay  by  money  for  this  abolition  project.   Frederick  Douglass 


48  JOHN  BROWN 

visited  Brown  in  his  home  in  Springfield  on  this  occasion. 
"  From  this  night  spent  with  John  Brown,"  said  Mr.  Douglass, 
"...  while  I  continued  to  write  and  speak  against  slavery, 
I  became  all  the  same  less  hopeful  of  its  peaceful  abolition. 
My  utterances  became  more  and  more  tinged  by  the  color 
of  this  man's  strong  impressions.  Speaking  at  an  anti-slavery 
convention  in  Salem,  Ohio,  I  expressed  the  apprehension  that 
slavery  could  only  be  destroyed  by  blood-shed,  when  I  was 
suddenly  and  sharply  interrupted  by  my  good  old  friend 
Sojourner  Truth  with  the  question,  'Frederick,  is  God  dead?' 
'No,'  I  answered,  'and  because  God  is  not  dead,  slavery  can 
only  end  in  blood.'  " 

If  this  testimony  seems  to  show  that  the  plan  of  using  force 
was  then,  in  1847,  taking  shape  in  Brown's  mind,  —  it  may 
have  been  delayed  in  coming  to  earlier  maturity  by  his  bank- 
ruptcy and  financial  distress,  —  there  is  nothing  in  John 
Brown's  letters  or  diary  to  indicate  so  early  an  all-ruling 
plan  of  applying  force  to  slavery  as  John  Brown,  Jr.,  records. 
iT'is  said  that  his  father  first  conceived  the  idoa  of  using  the 
Allegheny  Mountains  as  the  scene  for  an  armed  attack  on 
slavery,  and  a  means  of  running  off  freed  slaves  to  the  North, 
when  he  surveyed  the  Oberlin  lands.'  But  his  letter  to  his 
family  from  Ripley,  Virginia,  April  27,  1840,'"  already  cited, 
is  peaceable  enough,  and  his  hope  of  settling  his  family  there 
is  hardly  consistent  with  his  anti-slavery  policy  of  later  years. 
Indeed,  while  recording  his  pleasure  that  the  residents  of  the 
vicinity  were  more  attractive  people  than  he  had  thought, 
he  had  nothing  to  say  about  the  institution  of  slavery  which 
he  then,  for  the  first  time,  really  beheld  at  close  range.  So 
far  as  the  evidence  of  contemporary  documents  goes,  until 
1840,  at  least,  there  is  nothing  to  show  that  there  was  any- 
thing more  than  a  family  agreement  to  oppose  slavery,  with- 
out specification  as  to  the  precise  method  of  assault. 

The  transformation  of  the  peaceful  tanner  and  shepherd 
into  a  man  burning  to  use  arms  upon  an  institution  which 
refused  to  yield  to  peaceful  agitation  would  seem  to  have 
taken  place  in  the  latter  part  of  his  fourth  decade,  as  Mr. 
Douglass  testified.  Gradually  his  plan  took  final  shape.  There 
was  nothing  in  the  surroundings  of  pastoral  Richfield  or 
Akron  to  suggest  narrow  defiles  and  mountainous  passes 


HIS  GREATEST  OR  PRINCIPAL  OBJECT       49 

teeming  with  sharpshooters.  But,  little  by  little,  visions  of 
this  kind  came  into  Brown's  brain  more  and  more  as  the  years 
passed,  until  in  the  early  fifties  his  plan  was  clear  to  him  in 
its  outlines,  much  as  actually  put  into  execution.  The  salient 
idea  was  that  mountains  had  throughout  history  been  the 
means  of  enabling  a  few  brave  souls,  whether  gladiators,  or 
slaves,  or  free  men,  Swiss,  Italians,  or  Spaniards,  or  Circas- 
sians, to  defy  and  sometimes  to  defeat  armies  of  their  op- 
pressors. Into  the  mountain  fastnesses  regular  troops  pene- 
trated, it  was  thought,  with  difficulty,  and  the  ranges  thenv' 
selves  afforded  an  easy  line  of  communication  even  through 
a  wholly  hostile  country.  Moreover,  mountains  were  just 
the  place  to  assemble  bondmen  and  to  give  them  arms  with 
which  to  fight  for  liberty.  For  the  project  was  now  far  dif- 
ferent from  that  John  Brown  described  to  his  brother  in  1834; 
slavery,  it  appeared,  was,  after  all,  not  to  be  undone  by  edu- 
cating the  negroes  already  freed,  but  by  the  sword  of  Gideon 
and  a  band  as  carefully  chosen  as  was  his.  Gradually  the 
practical  shepherd  felt  his  blood  stirring  within  him,  but  not 
until  after  removal  to  Springfield,  Massachusetts,  in  1846,' 
when  he  had  the  opportunity  to  come  into  closer  knowledge 
of  the  militant  Boston  Abolitionists,  is  there  written  evi- 
dence of  this.  He  had  seen  the  Liberator  in  his  father's  home, 
for  Owen  Brown  early  became  a  subscriber  to  this  and  other 
vigorous  anti-slavery  journals.  John  Brown's  children  also 
remember  to  have  received  the  Liberator  in  Ohio,  when  it 
was  still  a  youthful  publication,  i'  and  later  in  North  Elba. 
The  Tribune,  too,  as  it  attained  fame  under  Greeley,  was  as 
welcome  a  visitor  to  this  home  as  to  so  many  thousands  of 
others.  Its  approval  of  the  doctrine  of  opposing  slavery  with 
Sharp's  rifles  commended  it  particularly  in  the  Kansas  days 
to  John  Brown,  who  was  by  nature  unable  to  sympathize 
with  the  Garrisonian  doctrine  of  non-resistance  to  force, 
although  there  are  some  who  would  believe  Brown  to  have 
been  a  non-resistant  as  late  as  1830.  They  cite  in  support 
of  their  contention  a  garbled  anecdote,  according  to^  which 
he  permitted  himself  to  be  cowhided  without  resisting  his 
assailant's  fury.^^  Brown's  residence  in  Springfield  gave  him 
the  opportunity  not  only  to  attend  anti-slavery  meetings, 
but  also  to  meet  many  colored  people;  in  the  first  written 


50  JOHN   BROWN 

evidence  of  his  growing  aggressiveness  towards  slavery  there 
is  reference  to  enhghtenment  at  the  hands  of  Abby  Kelley 
Foster,*  Garrison  "and  other  really  benevolent  persons." 
This  curious  production  of  Brown's  bespeaks  the  influence 
upon  him  of  Franklin's  writings;  throughout,  it  is  an  admo- 
nition to  the  negroes  to  avoid  their  besetting  sins,  an  incen- 
tive to  thrift,  frugality  and  solidarity,  and  it  is  written  as  if 
from  the  pen  of  a  black  man.  Sambo.  Contributed  in  1848 
or  1849  to  a  little-known  Abolition  newspaper,  The  Ram's 
Horn,  published  and  edited  by  colored  men  in  New  York, 
this  essay  denounces  the  negroes  for  their  supineness  in  the 
face  of  wrong,  instead  of  their  "nobly  resisting"  brutal  ag- 
gressions.f 

But  for  all  its  denunciation  of  the  negro's  "tamely  sub- 
mitting to  every  species  of  indignity,  contempt  and  wrong," 
it  cannot  be  maintained  that  this  satirical  article  indicated 
that  Brown  had  gone  very  far  along  the  path  toward  an  armed 
attack  on  slavery,  although  started  in  that  direction.  Nor 
does  it  appear  from  this  that  he  had  as  yet  reached  the 
conclusion  that  the  New  England  Abolitionists  were  to  be 
shunned  because  they  were  all  talk.  In  1851,  however,  the 
policy  of  armed  resistance  becomes  much  more  clearly  de- 
veloped ;  the  man  of  war  is  now  emerging  from  the  chrysalis 
of  peace.  On  January  15  of  that  year  there  was  organized  in 
Springfield  a  branch  of  the  United  States  League  of  Gilead- 
ites  —  the  first  and  apparently  the  only  one.  It  was  Brown's 
idea;  he  chose  the  title,  and  it  was  his  first  effort  to  organize 
the  colored  people  to  defend  themselves  and  advance  their 
interests.  It  was  a  practical  application  of  the  teachings-ef^ 
Sambo,  and  was  inspired  by  the  passage  of  the  Fugitive 
Slave  Law,  which  made  legal  in  the  North  the  rendition  of 
negroes  who  had  found  their  way  to  free  States.  The  "Words 
of  Advice"  for  the  Gileadites,  "as  written  and  recommended 
by  John  Brown"  and  adopted  as  the  principles  of  the  new 
organization,  begin  with  the  motto  "Union  is  Strength," 

*  "John  Brown  was  strong  for  women's  rights  and  women's  suffrage.  He 
always  went  to  hear  Lucretia  Mott  and  Abby  Kelley  Foster,  even  though  it  cost 
him  considerable  effort  to  reach  the  place  where  they  spoke."  —  Annie  Brown 
Adams. 

t  See  Appendix. 


HIS  GREATEST  OR  PRINCIPAL  OBJECT       51 

and  declare  in  the  first  sentence  that  "Nothing  so  charm^ 
the  American  people  as  personal  bravery.""  The  object  of 
the  Gileadites  was  not,  however,  to  attack  slavery  on  its 
own  territory,  but  to  band  the  colored  people  together  to  re- 
sist slave-catchers  and  make  impossible  the  returning  to  the 
South  of  a  fugitive  who  had  reached  Northern  soil.  Brown 
wrote : 

"No  jury  can  be  found  in  the  Northern  States,  that  would  con- 
vict a  man  for  defending  his  rights  to  the  last  extremity.  This  is 
well  understood  by  Southern  Congressmen,  who  insisted  that  the 
right  of  trial  by  jury  should  not  be  granted  to  the  fugitive.  Col- 
ored people  have  more  fast  friends  amongst  the  whites  than  they 
suppose.  .  .  .  Just  think  of  the  money  expended  by  individuals 
in  your  behalf  in  the  past  twenty  years!  Think  of  the  number 
who  have  been  mobbed  and  imprisoned  on  your  account.  Have 
any  of  you  seen  the  Branded  Hand?  Do  you  remember  the  names  of 
Lovejoy  and  Torrey?  Should  one  of  your  number  be  arrested,  you 
must  collect  together  as  quickly  as  possible  so  as  to  outnumber  your 
adversaries  who  are  taking  an  active  part  against  you.  Let  no 
able-bodied  man  appear  on  the  ground  unequipped,  or  with  his 
weapons  exposed  to  view;  let  that  be  understood  beforehand.  Your 
plans  must  be  known  only  to  yourself,  and  with  the  understanding 
that  all  traitors  must  die,  wherever  caught  and  proven  to  be  guilty. 
'Whosoever  is  fearful  or  afraid,  let  him  return  and  depart  early 
from  Mount  Gilead.'  (Judges,  VH  chap.,  3  verse;  Deut.  XX  Chap. 
8  verse.)  Give  all  cowards  an  opportunity  to  show  it  on  condi- 
tion of  holding  their  peace.  Do  not  delay  one  moment  after  you 
are  ready;  you  will  lose  all  your  resolution  if  you  do.  Let  the  first 
blow  be  the  signal  for  all  to  engage;  and  when  engaged  do  not  do 
your  work  by  halves;  but  make  clean  work  with  your  enemies, 
and  be  sure  you  meddle  not  with  any  others  .  .  .  Your  enemies 
will  be  slow  to  attack  you  after  you  have  once  done  up  the  work 
nicely.  .  .  ." 

All  this  has  the  characteristic  ring  of  John  Brown  the 
Kansas  fighter,  particularly  the  admonition  to  make  "clean 
work  with  your  enemies."  Here  is  the  stern  Puritan  parent, 
intolerant  of  childish  fault,  developed  into  a  man  urging  not 
only  shedding  the  blood  of  one's  enemies,  but  the  making  of 
"clean  work"  of  it,  much  as  pirate  captains  advocated  the 
walking  of  the  plank  as  a  sanitarily  satisfactory  way  of  dis- 
posing of  one's  captives.  This  advice,  as  will  be  seen  later  m 
this  narrative,  recurs  frequently  in  the  days  when  the  Round- 
head was  in  the  field   at  work.    Certainly,  when  engaged, 


52  JOHN  BROWN 

he  always  lived  up  to  his  doctrine  of  going  at  once  to  close 
quarters  with  his  enemy,  after  the  manner  of  John  Paul  Jones. 
The  transformation  of  the  practical  shepherd  was  thus  coming 
on  apace. 

Characteristic,  too,  is  Brown's  suggestion  in  the  "Words 
of  Advice,"  that  a  lasso  might  be  "applied  to  a  slave-catcher 
for  once  with  good  effect."  "Stand  by  one  another,  and  by 
your  friends,  while  a  drop  of  blood  remains;  and  be  hanged, 
if  you  must,  but  tell  no  tales  out  of  school,"  —  this  is  another 
solemn  admonition  which  smacks  of  the  Spanish  Main,  yet 
accurately  foreshadows  his  own  conduct  when  overcome  by 
his  enemies.  Original  is  the  hint  to  the  colored  people  to 
embroil  their  white  friends  in  the  event  of  trouble:  "After 
effecting  a  rescue,  if  you  are  assailed,  go  into  the  houses  of 
your  most  prominent  and  influential  white  friends  with  your 
wives,  and  that  will  effectually  fasten  upon  them  the  suspi- 
cion of  being  connected  with  you,  and  will  compel  them  to 
make  a  common  cause  with  you,  whether  they  would  other- 
wise live  up  to  their  profession  or  not.  This  would  leave  them 
no  choice  in  the  matter."  These  "Words  of  Advice"  were 
followed  by  an  agreement  and  nine  resolutions  which  practi- 
cally restate  the  agreement.  This  was  signed  by  forty-four 
colored  men  and  women  of  Springfield.  It  is  typical  of  other 
documents  John  Brown  drew  up  on,  to  him,  serious  occa- 
sions, and  is  in  his  best  style: " 


AGREEMENT 

As  citizens  of  the  United  States  of  America,  trusting  in  a  just 
and  merciful  God,  whose  spirit  and  all-powerful  aid  we  humbly 
implore,  we  will  ever  be  true  to  the  flag  of  our  beloved  country, 
always  acting  under  it.  We,  whose  names  are  hereunto  affixed, 
do  constitute  ourselves  a  branch  of  the  United  States  League  of 
Gileadites.  We  will  provide  ourselves  at  once  with  suitable  imple- 
ments, and  will  aid  those  who  do  not  possess  the  means,  if  any 
such  are  disposed  to  join  us.  We  invite  every  colored  person  whose 
heart  is  engaged  for  the  performance  of  our  business,  whether  male 
or  female,  old  or  young.  The  duty  of  the  aged,  infirm,  and  young 
members  of  the  League  shall  be  to  give  instant  notice  to  all  mem- 
bers in  case  of  an  attack  upon  any  of  our  people.  We  agree  to 
have  no  officers  except  a  Treasurer  and  Secretary  pro  tern.,  until 
after  some  trial  of  courage  and  talent  of  able-bodied  members  shall 


HIS  GREATEST  OR  PRINCIPAL  OBJECT       53 

enable  us  to  elect  officers  from  those  who  shall  have  rendered  the 
most  important  services.  Nothing  but  wisdom  and  undaunted  cour- 
age, efficiency,  and  general  good  conduct  shall  in  anyway  influence 
us  in  electing  our  officers. 

It  is  not  of  record  that  any  members  of  the  Gileadites 
actually  took  a  hand  in  a  slave-rescue  "with  suitable  imple- 
ments." There  is,  on  the  other  hand,  no  doubt  that  the  de- 
termined Springfield  wool- merchant,  in  drafting  these  reso- 
lutions in  his  fifty-first  year,  meant  them  to  contain  advice 
which  may  briefly  be  summed  up  as  forcible  resistance  to  the 
officers  of  the  law,  and  an  admonition  to  shoot  to  kill  on  all 
such  occasions.  As  long  as  he  was  in  Springfield,  John  Brown 
continued  to  concern  himself  with  these  colored  friends.  On 
November  28,  1850,  just  before  he  organized  the  Gileadites, 
he  wrote  to  his  wife:  '^  "  j  of  course  keep  encouraging  my 
colored  friends  to  'trust  in  God  and  keep  their  powder  dry.' 
I  did  so  today,  at  Thanksgiving  meeting,  publicly." 

From  the  Gileadites  to  plans  for  guerrilla  warfare  was  an 
easy  step.  In  his  second  memorandum-book,  preserved  in  the 
Boston  Public  Library,  there  is  an  entry  which  was  probably 
recorded  early  in  1855.   It  reads  thus: 

"Circassia  has  about  550,000 
Switzerland  2,037,030 
Guerilla  warfare  see  Life  of  Lord  Wellington  Page  71  to  Page  75 
(Mina).  See  also  Page  102  some  valuable  hints  in  same  Book.  See 
also  Page  196  some  most  important  instructions  to  officers.  See 
also  same  Book  Page  235  these  words  Deep  and  narrow  defiles 
where  300  men  would  suffice  to  check  an  army.  See  also  Page  236 
on  top  of  Page." 

The  book  in  question  is  Joachim  Hayward  Stocqueler's 
two-volume  'Life  of  Field  Marshal  the  Duke  of  Wellington,' 
published  in  London  in  1852,  and  the  activity  of  the  Spanish 
guerrillas  under  their  able  leader  Mina  was  what  attracted 
Brown's  attention.  The  "most  important  instructions  to 
officers"  related  to  discipline  and  cooking,  and  page  235  fur- 
nished a  description  of  the  mountainous  and  broken  topogra- 
phy of  Spain.  Directly  opposite  the  entry  quoted  above  is  a 
list  of  Southern  towns,  with  four  Pennsylvania  cities  mixed  in, 
as  if  Brown  were  considering  such  strategic  points  as  Little 
Rock,  Arkansas;  Charleston,  South  Carolina;  San  Antonio, 


54  JOHN  BROWN 

Texas;  St.  Louis,  Missouri;  Augusta,  Georgia,  and  others,  in 
an  elaborate  plan  for  assailing  the  slave-power  and  running 
off  its  much  cherished  property.  Some  Ohio  friends  of  Brown, 
Colonel  Daniel  Woodruff,  an  officer  of  the  War  of  1812,  his 
son-in-law,  Mr.  Henry  Myers  and  his  daughter,  according  to 
the  recollections  of  the  two  latter  (Colonel  Woodruff  having 
died  soon  after),  learned  from  John  Brown  the  details  of  his 
Virginia  plan  as  early  as  the  late  fall  of  1854  or  the  beginning 
of  1855.  i«  According  to  Mr.  Myers,  who  heard  the  discussion 
between  John  Brown  and  his  father-in-law,  the  former's  ob- 
ject in  visiting  Colonel  Woodruff  was  to  persuade  him  to  join 
in  a  raid  on  Harper's  Ferry,  to  take  place  at  that  time,  if 
it  could  be  organized.  He  had  seen  active  military  service, 
and  Brown  wanted  the  aid  of  his  practical  experience.  Dur- 
ing his  stay,  which  he  spent  in  urgent  endeavor  to  persuade 
^  Colonel  Woodruff,  Brown  detailed  his  whole  scheme,  so  that 
all  the  Woodruff  household  came  to  understand  it.  He  spoke 
of  the  evil  days  in  Kansas,  then  existing,  and  he  wished  to 
relieve  Kansas  and  to  retaliate  by  striking  at  another  point. 
He  wanted  to  attack  the  arsenal  at  Harper's  Ferry :  first,  to 
frighten  Virginia  and  detach  it  from  the  slave  interest;  second, 
to  capture  the  rifles  to  arm  the  slaves;  and  third,  to  destroy 
the  arsenal  machinery,  so  that  it  could  not  be  used  to  turn 
out  more  arms  for  the  perhaps  long  guerrilla  war  that  might 
follow;  and  to  destroy  whatever  guns  were  already  stored 
Jthere  that  he  could  not  carry  away. 

That  this  revelation  of  his  plan  is  not  improbable  appears 
from  other  testimony.  In  August,  1854,  John  Brown  wrote 
to  his  sons,  who  were  then  planning  to  combat  slavery  by 
settling  in  Kansas  as  Free  State  men,  that  he  could  not  join 
them  because  he  felt  a  call  to  duty  in  another  section  of  the 
country."  Evidently,  the  practical  shepherd  now  clearly  real- 
ized what  was  his  greatest  object  in  life  and  was  devoting 
himself  to  it.  His  daughter,  Annie  Brown  Adams,  says  that 
she  first  learned  the  plan  of  the  raid  the  winter  she  was  eleven 
years  old  (in  1854) ;  and  then  she  heard  of  it  as  to  take  place 
at  Harper's  Ferry.  1*  Later,  in  hearing  other  people's  stories, 
she  found  other  places  mentioned.  Salmon  explained  this  to 
her  by  saying  that  their  father  several  times  changed  his 
plans,  and  that  he  had  spoken  of  them  to  various  other  people 


HIS  GREATEST  OR  PRINCIPAL  OBJECT       55 

at  these  different  times.  "I  think  I  may  say,"  writes  Mrs. 
Adams,  "without  any  intention  of  boasting,  that  I  knew 
more  about  his  plans  than  anyone  else,  or  at  least  anyone 
else  who  'survived  to  tell  the  tale.'  He  always  talked  freely 
to  me  of  his  plans,  from  the  time  he  first  explained  them  to 
me,  the  winter  before  he  went  to  Kansas,  when  I  was  eleven 
years  old.  He  would  say  as  if  for  a  sort  of  apology  to  himself, 
perhaps,  'I  know  I  can  trust  you.  You  never  tell  anything 
you  are  told  not  to,'  after  talking  with  me  of  his  affairs." 

During  all  the  North  Elba  period  from  1849  to  1851,  so 
Miss  Sarah  Brown  thinks,  she  and  all  the  children  knew 
that  a  blow  was  to  be  struck  at  Harper's  Ferry.  She  clearly 
remembers  how,  when  Harper's  Ferry  came  into  the  lesson 
at  school,  her  heart  hammered  and  she  shivered  as  with  cold. 
Yet  she  cannot  recall  that  any  of  them  were  ever  cautioned 
to  keep  silence  as  to  this.  She  thinks  they  all  understood 
the  necessity  of  secrecy  as  to  all  their  father's  plans  so  well, 
that  warnings  were  known  to  be  superfluous.  She  clearly 
recalls  standing  behind  her  father's  chair  and  watching  him 
draw  diagrams  of  log  forts,  explaining  how  the  logs  were  to  be 
laid,  how  the  roofs  were  to  be  made,  and  how  trees  were  to 
be  felled  without,  and  laid  as  obstacles  to  attacking  parties. 
This  was  to  be  in  the  mountains  near  Harper's  Ferry,  and  her 
father  was  making  the  pictures  and  explaining  his  plans  to  one 
Epps,  a  negro  neighbor,  who  was  looking  on,  and  whom  her 
father  was  endeavoring  —  vainly  —  to  induce  to  join  the  raid- 
ers. Her  father  was  so  ready  to  trust  others  with  his  plans,  with 
sublime  faith  in  their  ability  to  keep  a  secret,  that  his  visit 
to  Colonel  Woodruff  would  have  been  entirely  in  keeping.  It 
is  related,  too,  that  he  confided  in  Thomas  Thomas,  a  negro 
porter  in  the  employ  of  Perkins  &  Brown  in  Springfield, 
soon  after  his  arrival  there  in  1846,"  but  there  is  no  direct 
confirmatory  evidence  of  his  having  laid  his  plan  before  some 
of  the  Gileadites.  Thomas  Thomas  took  no  active  interest  in 
Brown's  plans,  being  neither  conspicuous  in  the  League,  nor 
a  member  of  his  employer's  Chatham  convention  in  1858, 
preceding  the  raid  on  Harper's  Ferry. 

As  to  the  purposes  behind  the  plan  and  the  objects  to  be  • 
obtained,  it  is  probable  that  they  may  have  varied  as  the 
years  passed,  precisely  as  did  the  details  of  the  programme 


56  JOHN  BROWN 

and  the  actual  place  of  starting  his  revolt.  Thus,  while  he 
first  thought  of  Harper's  Ferry,  as  Mrs.  Annie  Brown  Adams 
testifies, 2"  other  places  were  at  times  discussed;  even  up  to  the 
raid,  it  was  thought  by  some  of  the  Boston  backers  of  Brown 
that  the  place  of  striking  the  first  blow  would  be  some  other 
locality  than  Harper's  Ferry,"  which,  by  its  nearness  to  the 
capital  of  the  nation  and  its  being  on  a  railroad,  was  ren- 
dered much  less  desirable  for  the  purpose  in  hand  than  some 
place  nearer  the  Ohio  boundary.  So,  too,  the  prime  object 
was  at  one  time  the  terrorizing  of  the  slaveholders  and  the 
making  of  slaveholding  less  profitable,  by  reducing  the  value 
of  slaves  along  the  border.  Not  until  later  was  there  thought 
out  a  plan  for  capturing,  controlling  and  governing  a  whole 
section  of  the  United  States.  Again,  in  the  Kansas  years,  a 
prime  motive  was  to  relieve  the  pro-slavery  pressure  upon 
Kansas  by  attacking  slavery  elsewhere.  At  one  time,  as  his 
son  Salmon  points  out,  John  Brown  hoped  to  force  a  settle- 
ment of  the  slavery  question  by  embroiling  both  sections. 
This  was  in  line  with  his  whole  Kansas  policy  of  inducing  a 
settlement  by  bringing  armed  pro-slavery  and  Free  State  forces 
to  close  quarters,  and  letting  them  fight  it  out.  After  the 
Kansas  episode,  John  Brown  planned  agitation  for  the  pur- 
,  pose  of  setting  the  South  afire.  The  Southern  leaders  in  Cpn- 
'gress  having  continually  threatened  secessiori,  John  Brown 
hoped  to  help  them  carry  out  their  threat  or  force  them  into 
it,  saying  that  the  "North  would  then  whip  the  South  back 
into  the  Union  without  slavery."  Salmon  Brown  declares 
that  he  heard  his  father  and  John  Brown,  Jr.,  discuss  this  by 
the  hour,  and  insists  that  "the  Harper's  Ferry  raid  had  that 
idea  behind  it  far  more  than  any  other,"  the  biographers  of 
his  father  having  failed  heretofore  to  bring  out  this  central 
far-reaching  idea  to  the  extent  it  merits. ^^  But  the  main 
motive  was,  after  all,  to  come  to  close  quarters  with  slavery, 
and  to  try  force  where  argument  and  peaceful  agitation  had 
theretofore  failed  to  break  the  slaves'  chains.  And  so,  shortly 
before  he  reached  the  age  of  fifty,  this  unknown  and  incon- 
,spicuous  wool-merchant  and  cattle-raiser  had  fully  resolved 
to  be  the  David  to  the  Goliath  of  slavery.  He  entertained 
no  doubt  that  he  could  accomplish  that  end,  if  he  could  but 
command  the  funds  necessary  for  the  purchase  of  arms. 


HIS  GREATEST  OR  PRINCIPAL  OBJECT       57 

While  all  this  metamorphosis  of  the  man  was  going  on, 
John  Brown's  new  business  venture  had  really  brought  him 
into  smoother  waters,  even  though  it  was  not  destined  to  be 
lasting  or  a  financial  success.  After  tending  the  Perkins  flocks 
for  two  years,  it  was  decided  to  establish  a  headquarters  in 
Massachusetts  for  the  sale  of  the  wool,  and  there  followed 
the  residence  in  Springfield  which  meant  so  much  for  Brown's 
development.  It  was  in  1846  that  he  opened  the  office,  and 
the  next  year  his  family  joined  him  there.  Frederick  Douglass, 
after  seeing  the  fine  store  of  Perkins  &  Brown,  was  prepared 
to  find  Brown's  residence  in  Springfield  similarly  impressive. 
"In  fact,"  he  wrote, ^^  "the  house  was  neither  commodious 
nor  elegant,  nor  its  situation  desirable.  It  was  a  small  wooden 
building,  on  a  back  street,  in  a  neighborhood  chiefly  occupied 
by  laboring  men  and  mechanics;  respectable  enough  to  be 
sure,  but  not  quite  the  place,  I  thought,  where  one  would  look 
for  the  residence  of  a  flourishing  and  successful  merchant. 
Plain  as  was  the  outside  of  this  man's  house,  the  inside  was 
plainer.  Its  furniture  would  have  satisfied  a  Spartan.  .  .  . 
There  was  an  air  of  plainness  about  it  [the  house]  which  almost 
suggested  destitution."  The  meal  was  "such  as  a  man  might 
relish  after  following  the  plow  all  day,  or  performing  a  forced 
march  of  a  dozen  miles  over  a  rough  road  in  frosty  weather." 
Everything  in  the  home  implied  to  Mr.  Douglass  "stern 
truth,  solid  purpose,  and  rigid  economy."  "I  was  not  long," 
he  added,  "in  company  with  the  master  of  this  house  before 
I  discovered  that  he  was,  indeed,  the  master  of  it,  and  was 
likely  to  become  mine  too  if  I  stayed  long  enough  with  him. 
He  fulfilled  St.  Paul's  idea  of  the  head  of  the  family.  His  wife 
believed  in  him,  and  his  children  observed  him  with  reverence. 
Whenever  he  spoke  his  words  commanded  earnest  attention. 
.  .  .  Certainly  I  never  felt  myself  in  the  presence  of  a  stronger 
religious  influence  than  while  in  this  man's  house." 

As  for  John  Brown  the  man,  he  was  then  in  his  forty-eighth 
year,  without  the  stoop  that  a  few  years  later  made  him  seem 
prematurely  old.  His  attire,  however  simple,  was  always  neat 
and  of  good  materials;  in  Ohio,  the  testimony  is,  he  dressed 
like  a  substantial  farmer  in  the  woolen  suits  of  the  time  and 
wore  cowhide  boots.  Physically  strong  and  sinewy,  he  was 
not  five  feet  eleven  in  height,  with  a  disproportionately  small 


58  JOHN  BROWN 

head,  an  inflexible  and  stern  mouth  and  a  prominent  chin. 
His  hair,  already  tinged  with  gray,  was  closely  trimmed  and 
grew  well  over  his  forehead.  But  his  bluish  gray  eyes  were 
what  held  and  won  people;  they  fairly  shone  when  he  talked. 
Mr.  Douglass  remembers  that  they  were  "full  of  light  and 
fire."  24  His  nose  was  somewhat  prominent  and  of  what  is 
known  as  the  Roman  type.  With  all,  the  face  was  vigorous, 
shrewd  and  impressive.  Once  a  visitor  to  the  North  Elba 
homestead  remarked  to  a  family  group:  "  I  think  your  father 
looks  like  an  eagle."  "Yes,"  replied  Watson  Brown,  "or  some 
other  carnivorous  bird."  ^^  But  the  comparison  was  not  meant 
to  be  unflattering;  it  was  the  keenness  of  the  eagle's  looks, 
the  sharp  watchfulness  of  his  glance,  even  with  half-shut  eyes, 
that  suggested  the  comparison.  On  the  prairies,  those  who 
rode  with  John  Brown  were  struck  with  the  range  and  the 
alertness  of  his  vision,  from  which  nothing  escaped,  while 
those  who  saw  him  in  the  cities  noticed  the  long  springing 
step  and  apparent  deep  absorption  in  his  own  reflections. 
Yet  all  agreed  upon  the  impressiveness  of  John  Brown's  bear- 
ing; even  in  later  years,  when  his  appearance  was  so  rural  as 
to  attract  attention  on  the  streets  of  Boston,  the  earnestness 
of  his  face  and  the  vigor  of  his  form  prevented  any  disposition 
to  ridicule. 

The  object  of  the  establishment  of  Perkins  &  Brown's 
office  in  Springfield  was  to  classify  wools  for  wool-growers,  in 
order  that  they  might  thus  obtain  a  better  value  for  their 
product  than  had  been  the  case  up  to  that  time,  and  to 
sell  it  on  a  commission  of  two  cents  per  pound. ^^  Having 
warehouses,  Perkins  &  Brown  received  large  shipments  of 
wool  from  farmers  known  to  them,  and  then  by  carefully 
sorting  the  fleeces  were  able  to  approach  manufacturers  of 
cashmere,  broadcloth,  jeans  or  satinette,  with  the  wools  of  the 
grade  they  desired.  In  the  first  Springfield  letter-book  of 
the  firm,  into  which  were  laboriously  copied  in  long-hand  all 
its  letters,"  the  first  epistle  bears  the  date  of  June  23,  1846, 
and  is  a  tribute  to  John  Brown's  probity  in  that  it  notifies 
Mr.  Marvin  Kent  that,  if  he  should  send  wool  to  the  firm  to 
sell,  the  amount  of  the  commissions  earned  would  be  used  to 
liquidate  John  Brown's  old  debts  to  himself  and  his  father. 
The  times  were  not,  however,  propitious  for  the  new  enter- 


HIS  GREATEST  OR  PRINCIPAL  OBJECT       59 

prise.  The  Walker  tariff  was  just  being  passed  by  Congress,  and 
the  war  with  Mexico  was  on.  The  legislative  uncertainty  made 
the  wool  market  dull  and  unstable,  and  when  the  Walker  bill 
was  signed,  the  price  of  Saxony  wool,  in  which  Perkins  & 
Brown  were  especially  interested,  dropped  from  seventy- five  to 
twenty-five  cents.  Perkins  &  Brown  were,  however,  able  to 
start  off  by  selling  the  splendid  wool  of  their  own  flocks  for  the 
good  price  of  sixty-nine  cents,  and  early  in  July,  in  a  letter  in 
Brown's  handwriting,  they  asserted  that  "we  receive  at  this 
place  more  of  the  first  class  of  American  wools  than  any  other 
house  in  the  country."  ^^  Many  of  the  firm's  letters  are  in 
the  handwriting  of  John  Brown,  Jr.,  who,  having  finished 
an  excellent  schooling  and  being  ready  for  business  life,  be- 
came a  clerk  in  the  Springfield  ofhce,  in  which  Jason  Brown 
also  served.  By  August  26,  John  Brown  was  able  to  report, 
cheerfully,  to  the  senior  partner  in  Ohio,  as  follows:^'  "We 
are  getting  in  wool  rapidly,  generally  from  50  to  80  bales  per 
day.  We  are  selling  a  little  and  have  very  frequent  calls  from 
manufacturers.  Musgrave  paid  up  our  note  at  the  Agawam 
[bank]  yesterday  so  that  I  now  have  our  name  clear  of  any 
paper  in  this  country.  .  .  .  We  have  had  a  big  wool-growers 
meeting  at  Springfield ;  Bishop  Campbell  presiding,  in  refer- 
ence to  sending  wool  hereafter  to  Europe." 

This  project  of  exporting  wool  to  England  and  the  Conti- 
nent deeply  interested  Brown  from  the  beginning  of  his 
Springfield  residence,  particularly  as  he  found  himself,  in  the 
fall  of  1846,  loaded  up  with  other  people's  wool,  unable  to  sell 
it  for  them  at  fair  figures,  and  quite  unwilling  to  sacrifice  it 
at  forced  sales.  On  November  27,  1846,  he  wrote  to  a  client'" 
that  he  would  have  gone  across  the  Atlantic  with  a  quan- 
tity of  wool  save  for  unforeseen  hindrances.  He  had  sent  to 
England  in  1845,  from  Ohio,  some  fleeces  "which  received 
unqualified  praise  both  for  condition  and  quality,"  and,  as  he 
said  in  this  letter,  the  firm  was  bent  on  encouraging  exporta- 
tion "and  in  giving  character  to  American  wools  in  Europe." 
Indeed,  the  sale  of  their  higher  grades  of  wool  to  an  English- 
man for  export  on  December  21,  1846,  was  all  that  saved 
Perkins  &  Brown  from  a  disastrous  ending  to  their  first 
season's  business.  They  were  being  hard  pushed  by  those  who 
had  sent  the  wool  and  were  in  need  of  money,  and  who  could 


6o  JOHN  BROWN 

not  understand  why  the  firm  had  not  been  able  to  sell  a  single 
pound  of  fine  wool  from  July  to  December.  Moreover,  some 
customers  had  just  grievances,  for  the  letter-book  contams  far 
too  many  apologies  for  failure  to  acknowledge  letters  and 
shipments  and  to  make  out  accurate  accounts,  for  so  young 
a  firm.  To  one  of  the  protestants,  John  Brown  explained  the 
situation  thus:  " 

"  We  have  at  last  found  out  that  some  of  the  principal  manu- 
facturers are  leagued  together  to  break  us  down,  as  we  have  offered 
them  wool  at  their  own  price  &  they  refuse  to  buy.  ...  We  hope 
every  wool-grower  in  the  country  will  be  at  Steubenville  [Ohio] 
2d  Wednesday  of  Feb'y  next,  to  hear  statements  about  the  wool 
trade  of  a  most  interesting  character.  There  is  no  difficulty  in  the 
matter  as  we  shall  be  abundantly  able  to  show,  if  the  farmers  will 
only  be  true  to  themselves.  .  .  .  Matters  of  more  importance  to 
farmers  will  then  be  laid  open,  than  what  kind  of  Tarriff  we  are  to 
have.  No  sacrifise  kneed  be  made,  the  only  thing  wanted  is  to  get 
the  broad  shouldered,  &  hard  handed  farmers  to  understand  how 
they  have  been  imposed  upon,  &  the  whole  matter  will  be  cured 
effectually." 

At  this  convention  Brown  made  his  peace  with  the  Ohio 
wool-growers  who  had  shipped  to  him,  but  he  did  not  find  a 
means  of  checkmating  the  cloth  manufacturers.  He  read  to 
the  convention  a  report  on  the  best  mode  of  making  wools 
ready  for  market  and  kindred  subjects.  It  was  resolved  that 
better  care  should  be  taken  in  preparing  and  washing  the 
wools,  that  commission-house  depots  be  appointed,  East  and 
West,  for  the  sale  of  wools,  Perkins  &  Brown  to  be  the  East- 
ern house,  and  a  committee  of  five,  of  which  John  Brown  was 
one,  was  appointed  to  obtain  a  foreign  market  for  American 
wools."  The  wicked  manufacturers  continued,  however,  to 
make  trouble  for  the  wool-growers  and  the  commission  house 
of  Perkins  &  Brown,  whose  eventual  retirement  from  the 
wool  business  is  still  laid  at  their  doors.  They  did  not  wish 
the  wool-growers  to  organize  and  unite;  but  in  all  fairness  to 
the  manufacturers,  the  final  failure  should  as  well  be  shared 
by  Perkins  &  Brown  themselves.''  For,  though  the  Spring- 
field business  continued  in  1848  and  1849,  as  time  passed  it 
was  evident  that  John  Brown,  wholly  lacking  as  he  was  in  a 
merchant's  training,  was  not  fitted  for  the  work.  He  did  not 


HIS  GREATEST  OR  PRINCIPAL  OBJECT       6i 

know  how  to  trade,  being  far  too  rigid  in  his  prices.  He  waited 
to  make  them  until  he  had  all  his  wool  sorted ;  then,  when 
the  prices  were  finally  fixed,  the  manufacturers  had  bought 
elsewhere.  It  is  related  ^^  that  John  Brown  once  declined 
sixty  cents  a  pound  for  the  firm's  own  splendid  Saxony  fleeces 
and  insisted  on  shipping  them  to  England  for  sale.  The  North- 
ampton, Massachusetts,  manufacturer  who  made  the  offer 
bought  this  shipment  in  England,  had  it  returned  to  Spring- 
field, and  showed  it  in  triumph  to  John  Brown  as  having  cost 
him  in  freight  and  all  only  fifty-two  cents  a  pound,  eight  cents 
less  than  he  had  first  offered  for  it.  Brown  had  apparently 
put  no  restriction  of  price  upon  his  London  agent. 

The  idea  of  checkmating  the  manufacturers  by  sales  abroad 
continued  to  engross  Brown,  and  he  was  finally  able  to  carry 
out  his  idea  of  a  trip  to  Europe  in  1849.  He  sailed  August  15, 
1849,  by  the  steamer  Cambria,  arriving  in  London  on  the  27th, 
on  a  journey  which  afterwards  played  a  great  part  in  his  dis- 
cussions of  his  military  plans,  for,  aside  from  his  business  ven- 
ture, he  was  by  this  time  particularly  anxious  to  study  some 
European  fortifications.  Finding  on  his  arrival  in  London  that 
no  sales  could  be  effected  until  the  middle  of  September,  he 
left  for  Paris  on  the  29th  of  August.  Some  of  his  first  impres- 
sions of  England  are  thus  set  down  in  a  letter  to  his  son :  ^^ 

"England  is  a  fine  country,  so  far  as  I  have  seen;  but  nothing 
so  very  wonderful  has  yet  appeared  to  me.  Their  farming  and 
stone-masonry  are  very  good;  cattle,  generally  more  than  middling 
good.  Horses,  as  seen  at  Liverpool  and  London,  and  through  the 
fine  country  betwixt  these  places,  will  bear  no  comparison  with 
those  of  our  Northern  states,  as  they  average.  I  am  here  told  that 
I  must  go  to  the  Park  to  see  the  fine  horses  of  England,  and  I  sup- 
pose I  must ;  for  the  streets  of  London  and  Liverpool  do  not  ex- 
hibit half  the  display  of  fine  horses  as  do  those  of  our  cities.  But 
what  I  judge  from  more  than  anything  is  the  numerous  breeding 
mares  and  colts  among  the  growers.  Their  hogs  are  generally  good, 
and  mutton-sheep  are  almost  everywhere  as  fat  as  pork." 

Of  the  people  and  their  institutions  John  Brown  recorded 
no  impressions  in  the  letters  of  this  period  now  extant.  Nor 
is  his  entire  Continental  itinerary  known.  According  to  care- 
fully saved  hotel  bills, '«  he  was  in  Calais  on  August  29  and  30, 
and  in  Hamburg  on  September  5.  Between  these  two  dates 


62  JOHN  BROWN 

he  was  in  Paris,  going  thence  to  Brussels,  where  he  visited 
the  battlefield  of  Waterloo  on  his  way  eastward.  Various 
surmises  have  been  made  as  to  where  the  other  eleven  or 
twelve  days  between  his  visit  to  Hamburg  and  his  return  to 
London  were  spent,  but  there  is  no  documentary  evidence 
to  prove  the  number  of  battlefields  he  visited,  or  that  he 
actually  penetrated  in  so  brief  a  time  into  Switzerland  and 
Northern  Italy,  as  is  sometimes  alleged.  As  already  stated, 
this  short  trip  to  the  Continent  played  a  great  part  in  his  later 
conversations,  when  he  was  called  upon  to  defend  the  peculiar 
features,  from  the  military  point  of  view,  of  his  Harper's  Ferry 
plans.  But  obviously,  no  thorough  military  studies  were  pos- 
sible in  so  scant  a  time  as  John  Brown  had  in  Europe. 

He  was  in  London  again  not  later  than  September  17,  when 
an  auction  sale  of  some  of  his  wool  took  place  that  set  the  seal 
of  disaster  upon  his  business  venture.  The  story  was  thus 
related  to  his  son  by  the  traveller :  ^' 

London  [Friday]  21st  Sept  1849 
Dear  Son  John 

I  have  nothing  new  to  write  excepting  that  I  [am]  still  well  & 
that  on  Monday  last  a  lot  of  No.  2  wool  was  sold  at  the  auction  sale 
at  f  1  to  5  2i  or  in  other  words  at  from  .26  to  .29  cents  pr  lb.  This 
is  a  bad  sale,  &  I  have  withdrawn  all  other  wools  from  the  public 
sales.  Since  the  other  wools  have  been  withdrawn  I  have  discov- 
ered a  much  greater  interest  amongst  the  buyers,  &  I  am  in  hopes 
to  succeed  better  with  the  other  wools  but  cannot  say  yet  how  it 
will  prove  on  the  whole.  I  have  a  great  deal  of  stupid,  obstinate, 
prejudice,  to  contend  with  as  well  as  conflicting  interests;  both  in 
this  country,  &  from  the  United  States.  I  can  only  say  that  I  have 
exerted  myself  to  the  utmost;  &  that  if  I  cannot  effect  a  better  sale 
of  the  other  wools  privately;  I  shall  start  them  back.  I  believe  that 
not  a  pound  of  the  No  2  wool  was  bought  for  the  United  States, 
&  I  learn  that  the  general  feeling  is  now;  that  it  was  quite  under- 
sold. About  150  Bales  were  sold.  I  regret  that  so  many  were  put 
up;  but  it  cannot  be  helped  now,  for  after  wool  has  been  subjected 
to  a  London  examination  for  a  public  sale  it  is  very  much  injured 
for  selling  again.  The  agent  of  Thirion  Maillard  &  Co  has  been 
looking  at  them  today,  &  seemed  highly  pleased,  said  he  had  never 
seen  superior  wools;  &  that  he  would  see  me  again.  We  have  not 
yet  talked  about  price.  I  now  think  I  shall  begin  to  think  of  home 
quite  in  earnest  at  least  in  another  fortnight  possibly  sooner.  I  do 
not  think  the  sale  made  a  full  test  of  the  opperation. 

Farewell  Your  Affectionate  Father 

John  Brown 


HIS  GREATEST  OR  PRINCIPAL  OBJECT       63 

On  October  5,  Brown  had  again  returned  to  London,  after 
visiting  "Leeds,  Wortley,  Branley,  Bradford  &  other  places," 
and  wrote  thus  to  his  son  John,  Jr. :  ^^  "  I  expect  to  close  up  the 
sale  of  wool  here  today,  &  to  be  on  my  way  home  One  week 
from  today.  .  .  .  It  is  impossible  to  sell  the  wool  for  near  its 
value  compared  with  other  wools,  but  I  expect  to  do  better 
some  than  in  the  first  sale.  I  have  at  any  rate  done  my  utmost, 
&  can  do  no  more.  I  do  not  expect  to  write  again  before  I 
leave.  .  .  .  My  health  is  good  but  I  have  been  in  the  midst 
of  sickness  and  death."  During  this  interval,  too,  John  Brown 
visited  in  London  the  first  of  the  long  series  of  world's  fairs, 
and  took  advantage  of  it  to  exhibit  some  of  the  beautiful 
Saxony  wool  he  had  brought  with  him.  Long  after  his  return 
to  his  home,  he  received  a  bronze  medal  which  the  wool  judges 
awarded  him  for  his  exhibit.  Here,  too,  must  be  recorded  the 
story  early  recorded  by  Redpath,  of  the  attempt  of  some 
English  wool-merchants  to  play  a  trick  on  the  rustic  Yankee 
farmer  who  came  to  them  with  wool  to  sell,  by  handing  him 
a  sample  and  asking  him  what  he  would  do  with  it:  "His  eyes 
and  fingers  were  so  good  that  he  had  only  to  touch  it  to  know 
that  it  had  not  the  minute  hooks  by  which  fibres  of  wool  are 
attached  to  each  other.  'Gentlemen,'  said  he,  'if  you  have 
any  machinery  that  will  work  up  dogs'  hair,  I  would  advise 
you  to  put  this  into  it.'  The  jocose  Briton  had  sheared  a 
poodle  and  brought  the  hair  in  his  pocket,  but  the  laugh 
went  against  him ;  and  Captain  Brown,  in  spite  of  some  pecul- 
iarities of  dress  and  manner,  soon  won  the  respect  of  all  he 
met."  It  is  also  said  that  if  given  samples  of  Ohio  and  Ver- 
mont wool,  he  could  readily  distinguish  them  when  blind- 
folded or  in  the  dark. 

Apparently  he  was  able  to  despatch  his  business  about  as 
he  had  hoped  to,  for  he  was  in  New  York  by  the  end  of  Octo- 
ber, bringing  back  the  wool  that  he  was  unable  to  sell.  The 
loss  on  this  venture  was  probably  as  high  as  forty  thousand 
dollars.  33  Not  unnaturally  this  added  neither  to  the  standing 
nor  the  progress  of  the  firm,  and  the  skies  were  much  dark- 
ened for  the  partners.  Even  before  the  trip  to  Europe,  they 
had  talked  of  giving  up  the  business.  Nearly  a  year  later, 
John  Brown  thus  described  an  interview  with  his  financial 
backer  and  partner:" 


64  JOHN   BROWN 

BuRGETTSTOWN  Pa  i2th  April  1850 

Dear  Son  John,  &  Wife  ,,  ^  o*-  Mp=;s  Fowlers 

When  at  New  York  on  my  way  here  I  called  ^t  Messjowiers 
&  Wells  office,  but  you  were  absent.  Mr.  Pf^ms  has  made  me  a 
visit  here,  &  left  for  home  yesterday.  All  well  m  Essex  ^^en  1  lett 
All  well  at  Akron  when  he  left  one  week  smce  0"5  j^^JPf  ^ 
o-PtViPr  was  one  of  the  most  cordial,  &  pleasant,  I  ever  experiencea. 
He  metTfuU  history  of  our  difficulties,  &f  probable  losses  v^ithout 
a  frown  on  hi^  counte'^iance,  or  one  sylable  of  reflection^  but  on  the 
con?rIry  with  words  of  comfort,  &  encouragement.  He  is  wholly 
averse  to  any  seperation  of  our  business  or  interests,  &  gave  me 
?he  uUestas^surince  of  his  undiminished  confidence,  &  personal 
regard.  He  expressed  a  strong  desire  to  have  our  flock  of  sheep 
remain  undivided  to  become  the  joint  possession  of  our  families 
when  we  have  gone  ofT  the  stage.  Such  a  meeting  I  had  not  dared 
to  expect,  &  I  most  heartily  wish  each  of  my  family  could  have 
shared  in  the  comfort  of  it.  Mr.  Perkins  has  in  this  whole  business 
from  first  to  last  set  an  example  worthy  of  a  Philosopher,  or  ot  a 
Christian.  I  am  meeting  with  a  good  deal  of  trouble  from  those 
to  whom  we  have  over  advanced  but  feel  nerved  to  face  any  ditti- 
culty  while  God  continues  me  such  a  partner.  Expect  to  be  in  Mew 
York  within  3  or  4  weeks.* 

By  November  the  firm's  situation  was  much  worse.  "We 
have  trouble,"  wrote  John  Brown  to  his  son  on  the  4th  of 
that  month,"  "with  Pickersgills,  McDonald,  Jones,  Warren, 
Burlington  &  Patterson  &  Ewing.  These  different  claims 
amount  to  $40  M ;  [$40,000]  &  if  lost  will  leave  me  nice  &flat. 
(This  is  in  confidence.)  Mr.  Perkins  bears  the  trouble  a  great 
deal  better  than  I  had  feared.  I  have  been  trying  to  collect 
&  am  still  trying."  Just  a  month  later,  he  informed  his  sons 
that  the  prospect  for  the  fine-wool  business  was  improving, 
"What  burdens  me  most  of  all  is  the  apprehension  that  Mr. 
Perkins  expects  of  me  in  the  way  of  bringing  matters  to  a 
close  what  no  living  man  can  possibly  bring  about  in  a  short 
time,  and  that  he  is  getting  out  of  patience  and  becoming 
distrustful.  ...  He  is  a  most  noble-spirited  man,  to  whom 
I  feel  most  deeply  indebted;  and  no  amount  of  money  \yould 
atone  to  my  feelings  for  the  loss  of  confidence  and  cordiality 
on  his  part."  That  this  loss  did  not  come  to  pass  is  attested 
by  a  letter  from  Mr.  Perkins's  son,  George  T.  Perkins,  who 
writes :t  "My  father,  Simon  Perkins,  was  associated  with  Mr. 

*  Signature  missing. 

t  To  the  author,  from  Akron,  Ohio,  December  26,  1908. 


HIS  GREATEST  OR  PRINCIPAL  OBJECT       65 

Brown  in  business  for  a  number  of  years,  and  always  regarded 
him  as  thoroughly  honest  and  honorable  in  all  his  relations 
with  him.  Mr.  Brown  was,  however,  so  thoroughly  imprac- 
tical in  his  business  management,  as  he  was  in  almost  every- 
thing else,  that  the  business  was  not  a  success  and  was  dis- 
continued. Their  relations  were  afterwards  friendly."  On 
the  other  side,  the  Browns  felt  that  too  much  responsibility 
had  been  put  upon  their  father.  While  most  successful  as  a 
railroad  man,  Mr.  Perkins  was  not  as  well  fitted  by  experience 
and  aptitude  for  the  wool  business.  But  despite  John  Brown's 
failures,  he  gave  him  one  chance  after  another.  "John  Brown 
was,  however,  entirely  obstinate,  insisted  always  on  having 
his  own  way,  and  at  last  Mr.  Perkins  broke  the  connection."  " 
The  senior  partner  did  not,  moreover,  share  the  junior's  antip- 
athy to  slavery. 

The  final  winding  up  of  the  firm's  affairs  lasted  for  some 
years,  because  of  prolonged  litigation  growing  out  of  the 
trouble  with  some  of  the  houses  and  customers  John  Brown 
mentioned.  Against  one  of  them,  Warren,  his  indignation 
was  never  checked.  As  late  as  April  16,  1858,  he  warned  his 
family,  when  purchasing  land  from  his  daughter  and  son-in- 
law,  against  the  possibility  of  trouble  from  creditors  of  Per- 
kins &  Brown :  *^ 

"  Since  I  wrote  you,  I  have  thought  it  possible;  though  not  prob- 
able ;  that  some  persons  might  be  disposed  to  hunt  for  any  property 
I  may  be  supposed  to  possess,  on  account  of  liabilities  I  incurred 
while  concerned  with  Mr.  Perkins.  Such  claims  I  ought  not  to  pay 
if  I  had  ever  so  much  given  me;  for  my  service  in  Kansas.  Most  of 
you  know  that  I  gave  up  all  I  then  had  to  Mr.  Perkins  while  with 
him.  ...  I  also  think  that  .  .  .  all  the  family  had  better  decline 
saying  anything  about  their  land  matters.  Should  any  disturbance 
ever  be  made  it  will  most  likely  come  directly  or  indirectly  through 
a  scoundrel  by  the  name  of  Warren  who  defrauded  Mr.  Perkins 
and  I  out  of  several  thousand  dollars." 

The  trial  of  the  Perkins  &  Brown  suit  against  Warren  took 
place  in  Troy,  New  York,  late  in  January,  1852;  from  a  re- 
port of  John  Brown  to  Mr.  Perkins  on  the  26th  of  January,^* 
it  looked  as  if  the  suit  were  going  in  the  firm's  favor.  He  did 
obtain  a  verdict  in  this  lower  court,  only  to  have  it  appealed 
to  a  higher  court,  with  the  result,  according  to  John  Brown, 


66  JOHN  BROWN 

that  Warren  was  successful   in  his  attempt  to  defraud  the 
firm.    A  more  serious  suit  was  one  brought  against  Perkins 
&  Brown  for  no  less  than  sixty  thousand  dollars  damages, 
for  breach  of  contract  in  supplying  wool  of  certain  grades 
to  the  Burlington  Mills  Company  of  Burlington,  Vermont.^  It 
finally  came  to  trial  January  14,  1853,  and  after  progressing 
somewhat  it  was  settled  out  of  court,  his  counsel  deeming 
it  wiser  to  compromise  than  to  face  a  jury.^*  There  were  still 
other  suits  brought  by  or  against  the  firm  to  vex  John  Brown 
during  these  years  1850  to  1854,  and  to  add  by  their  costli- 
ness and  tedious  delays  to  the  financial  losses.    This  was  the 
unfortunate  wind-up  to  John  Brown's  career  as  a  wool-mer- 
chant. Thereafter  he  lived  first  on  the  products  of  his  farm- 
ing in  Ohio  or  in  the  Adirondacks,  and  then  on  gifts  made  to 
maintain  him  as  a  guerrilla  leader  in  Kansas,  or  as  a  prospective 
invader  of  Virginia.    From  August,   1856,  when  he  first  re- 
turned from  Kansas,  until  October,  1859,  he  was  thus  main- 
tained, without  a  regular  business  or  regular  labor  of  any 
kind,  while  part  of  his  family  obtained  a  penurious  living 
in  the  Adirondacks,  and  the  grown  sons  shared  their  father's 
poverty  and  hardships  in  Kansas  or  worked  and  farmed  at 
intervals  in  Ohio,  until  the  final  disaster  at  Harper's  Ferry. 
Although  unable  to  impress  others  with  his  fitness  as  a  busi- 
ness man,  when  he  finally  abandoned  the  career  of  a  mer- 
chant for  that  of  a  warrior  against  slavery,  he  had  so  little 
difficulty  in  convincing  friends  and  acquaintances  of  his  abil- 
ity, usefulness  and  sagacity  as  a  guerrilla  chief  and  leader  of 
a  slave  revolt,  that  he  readily  obtained  thousands  of  dollars  to 
maintain  him  and  his  followers  during  at  least  three  years  of 
their  warring  upon  the  South's  cherished  ownership  of  human 
property. 

It  is  only  just  to  add  that,  while  the  financial  losses  of 
Perkins  &  Brown's  mercantile  business  were  heavy,  Mr.  Per- 
kins was  not  only  willing  to  continue  in  the  farming  and 
sheep-raising  part  of  it  with  Brown,  but  insisted  on  it  until 
well  into  the  spring  of  1854.  The  last  year  of  this  phase  of 
their  joint  enterprise  was  "quite  successful."  "We  have 
great  reason  to  be  thankful,"  wrpte  John  Brown  in  February, 
"  that  we  have  had  so  prosperous  a  year,  and  have  terminated 
our  connection  with  Mr.  Perkins  so  comfortably  and  on  such 


HIS  GREATEST  OR  PRINCIPAL  OBJECT       67 

friendly  terms."  *«  Early  in  April,  1854,  he  again  wrote:  "I 
had  a  most  comfortable  time  settling  last  year's  business  and 
dividing  with  Mr.  Perkins  and  have  to  say  of  his  dealings 
with  me  that  he  has  shown  himself  to  be  every  inch  a  gen- 
tleman."" The  only  drawback,  in  John  Brown's  mind,  was 
his  inability  to  move  his  family  back  to  North  Elba.  This  he 
had  to  put  off  for  another  year,  during  which  he  rented  and 
worked  three  farms  near  Akron,  meanwhile  turning  every- 
thing into  cash  that  he  could  in  preparation  for  the  final 
settlement  in  his  new  home  in  the  Adirondacks. 

For  John  Brown  was  content  to  stay  neither  in  Akron  nor 
anywhere  else  in  Ohio.  The  residence  of  his  family  in  Spring- 
field had  lasted,  all  told,  but  two  years,  from  1847  to  1849; 
then  the  restlessness  of  his  nature  dictated  another  move. 
While  in  Springfield  he  occupied  the  house  at  number  31 
Franklin  Street,  where  Frederick  Douglass  found  him,  and  in 
which  his  daughter  Ellen  was  born  on  May  20,  1848,  only  to 
die  a  year  later  in  her  sorely  tried  father's  arms.  Still  another 
child,  an  infant  son,  he  was  yet  to  lose,  —  the  seventh  of  the 
thirteen  children  of  his  second  marriage  to  die  in  childhood, 
while  two  more  were  destined  to  perish  at  Harper's  Ferry 
before  his  eyes.  It  is  still  remembered  that  the  parlor  of  this 
Springfield  house  was  not  furnished,  that  the  money  it  would 
cost  might  be  given  to  fugitive  slaves."  Indeed,  Springfield 
still  abounds  in  anecdotes  of  the  wool-dealer  in  whom,  at  the 
time  of  his  residence  there,  no  one  saw  any  signs  of  greatness. 
The  best  known  one  concerns  his  attempt  to  prove  that  the 
hypnotism  practised  by  La  Roy  Sunderland,  a  well-known 
hypnotist  of  this  period,  1848  or  1849,  was  a  fraud.  So  many 
garbled  versions  of  this  story  have  appeared  from  time  to 
time  that  it  is  best  to  give  it  in  Mr.  Sunderland's  own  words, 
as  he  described  it  on  December  9,  1859:*' 

"His  conduct  in  one  of  my  lectures  on  Pathetism,  in  Springfield, 
Mass.,  some  twelve  years  since,  has  been  referred  to  in  the  papers, 
lately.  That  occasion  offered  a  grand  opportunity  for  the  exhibi- 
tion of  his  real  character,  as,  at  that  time,  he  had  not  engaged  in 
the  defence  of  Kansas,  and  he  had  had  no  personal  encounters 
with  Slavery.  He  had  witnessed  the  surgical  operation  performed 
on  a  lady  whom  I  had  rendered  insensible  to  pain,  as  she  alleged, 
by  Pathetism.  This,  with  the  other  phenoniena  which  he  witnessed 
in  my  lectures,  was  beyond  his  comprehension ;  and  so  he  arose  one 


68  JOHN   BROWN 

evening,  and  pronounced  my  lectures  a  humbug,  and  he  offered  to 
prove  it,  if  I  would  only  allow  him  to  come  upon  my  platform, 
and  test  the  consciousness  of  one  of  my  patients.  To  this  proposal 
I  consented,  on  two  conditions,  namely,  that  his  tests  should  not 
endanger  the  health  of  my  patient;  and  this  to  be  determmed  by 
the  physicians  of  the  town;  and  secondly,  that  Brown_  himself 
should  submit  to  the  same  processes  which  he  should  inflict  upon 
the  entranced  lady.  To  this  he  readily  agreed,  although  it  was 
quite  evident  that  when  he  at  first  proposed  his  test  he  had  no  idea 
of  going  through  with  it  himself.  He  had  consulted  a  physician  for  a 
process  which  should,  beyond  all  doubt,  demonstrate  the  conscious- 
ness of  pain,  if  any  such  consciousness  existed  in  the  lady  who  was 
entranced.  And  so  the  next  night.  Brown  and  his  physicians  were 
on  hand,  with  a  vial  of  concentrated  ammonia  and  a  quantity  (g.  s.) 
oi  dolichos  pruriens  (cowhage).  This  'cow  itch,'  as  it  is  sometimes 
called,  is  the  sharp  hair  of  a  plant,  and  when  applied  to  the  skin,  it  acts 
mechanically  for  a  long  time,  tormenting  the  sufferer  like  so  many 
thistles  or  needles  being  constantly  thrust  into  the  nerves.  No  one, 
I  am  sure,  would  willingly  consent  to  suffer  the  application  of  cow- 
hage to  his  body  more  than  once.  Brown  bore  it  like  a  hero.  But, 
then,  he  had  the  advantage  of  the  entranced  lady  —  the  skin  of  his 
neck  looking  like  sole  leather;  it  was  tanned  by  the  sun,  and  looked 
as  if  it  was  impervious.  Not  so,  however,  when  the  ammonia  was 
held  to  his  nose;  for  then,  by  a  sudden  jerk  of  his  head,  it  became 
manifest  that  he  could  not,  by  his  own  volition,  screw  up  his  nervous 
system  to  endure  what  I  had  rendered  a  timid  lady  able  to  bear 
without  any  manifestation  of  pain.  The  infliction  upon  Brown  was 
a  terrible  one,  for  he  confessed,  three  days  afterwards,  that  he  had 
not  been  able  to  sleep  at  all  since  the  cowhage  was  rubbed  into  his 
neck.  In  submitting  himself  to  that  test,  the  audience  declared  him 
'foolhardy,'  as  it  proved  nothing  against  the  genuineness  of  my 
experiments.  It  would  not  follow,  that  because  he  could  endure 
an  extraordinary  amount  of  physical  pain,  therefore  another  per- 
son could  do  the  same.  The  degree  of  courage  manifested  by 
John  Brown  made  him  the  extraordinary  man  he  was.   .  .  ." 

/  The  church  Brown  attended  while  in  Springfield  was  natu- 
rally the  Zion  Methodist,  for  it  was  formed  by  dissenters  from 
an  older  church  because  of  their  anti-slavery  views.  John 
Brown  found  also  a  congenial  friend  in  a  Mr.  Conkling,  a 
clergyman,  who  later  became  estranged  from  his  congregation 
by  reason  of  his  Abolition  opinions.'"  While  John  Brown 
himself  never  faltered  in  his  religious  faith,  the  backsliding 
of  his  sons  disturbed  him  not  a  little,  so  that  he  wrote  to  them 
a  number  of  pathetically  earnest  letters,  endeavoring  to  recall 
them  to  the  ways  of  godliness.    It  was  characteristic  of  him 


HIS  GREATEST  OR  PRINCIPAL  OBJECT       69 

that,  strong  as  was  his  nature  and  intense  as  was  his  belief 
in  the  orthodox  Congregational  faith,  this  difference  of  reli- 
gious conviction  never  interfered  with  the  affection  which 
existed  between  father  and  sons.  To  some  of  his  children  he 
addressed  the  following  letter  on  this  subject  while  in  Troy, 
New  York: 51 

Troy,  N.  Y.,  23  Jan.  1852    ; 
Dear  Children  : 

I  returned  here  on  the  evening  of  the  12th  inst.  and  left  Akron 
on  the  14th,  the  date  of  your  letter  to  John.  I  was  very  glad  to 
hear  from  you  again  in  that  way,  not  having  received  anything  from 
you  while  at  home.  I  left  all  in  usual  health  and  as  comfortable  as 
could  be  expected;  but  am  afflicted  with  you  on  account  of  yo>M" 
little  Boy.  Hope  to  hear  by  return  mail  that  you  are  all  well.  As 
in  this  trouble  you  are  only  tasteing  of  a  cup  I  have  had  to  drink  of 
deeply,  and  very  often ;  I  need  not  tell  how  fully  I  can  sympathize 
with  you  in  your  anxiety.  My  attachments  to  this  world  have  been 
very  strong,  and  Divine  Providence  has  been  cutting  me  loose  one 
bond  after  another,  up  to  the  present  time,  but  notwithstanding 
I  have  so  much  to  remind  me  that  all  ties  must  soon  be  severed ;  I 
am  still  clinging  like  those  who  have  hardly  taken  a  single  lesson.  I 
really  hope  some  of  my  family  may  understand  that  this  world  is 
not  the  home  of  man;  and  act  in  accordance.  Why  may  I  not  hope 
this  of  you?  When  I  look  forward  as  regards  the  religious  prospects 
of  my  numerous  family  (the  most  of  them)  I  am  forced  to  say,  and 
to  feel  too ;  that  I  have  little,  very  little  to  cheer.  That  this  should 
be  so,  is  I  perfectly  well  understand,  the  legitimate  fruit  of  my  own 
planting;  and  that  only  increases  my  punishment.  Some  ten  or 
twelve  years  ago  I  was  cheered  with  the  belief  that  my  elder  chil- 
dren had  chosen  the  Lord  to  be  their  God;  and  I  valued  much  on 
their  influence  and  example  in  attoning  for  my  deficiency  and  bad 
example  with  the  younger  children.  But,  where  are  we  now?  Sev- 
eral have  gone  to  where  neither  a  good  or  a  bad  example  from  me 
will  better  their  condition  or  prospects,  or  make  them  the  worse. 
The  younger  part  of  my  children  seem  to  be  far  less  thoughtful  and 
disposed  to  reflection  than  were  my  older  children  at  their  age.  I 
will  not  dwell  longer  on  this  distressing  subject  but  only  say  that 
so  far  as  I  have  gone;  it  is  from  no  disposition  to  reflect  on  anyone 
but  myself.  I  think  I  can  clearly  discover  where  I  wandered  from 
the  Road.  How  to  now  get  on  it  with  my  family  is  beyond  my  abil- 
ity to  see ;  or  my  courage  to  hope.  God  grant  you  thorough  conver- 
sion from  sin,  and  full  purpose  of  heart  to  continue  steadfast  in  his 
ways  through  the  very  short  season  of  trial  you  will  have  to  pass.    / 

How  long  we  shall  continue  here  is  beyond  our  ability  to  foresee, 
but  think  it  very  probable  that  if  you  write  us  by  return  mail  we 
shall  get  your  letter.   Something  may  possibly  happen  that  may 


70  JOHN   BROWN 

enable  us,  or  one  of  us,  to  go  and  see  you  but  do  not  look  for  us.  I 
should  feel  it  a  great  privilege  if  I  could.  We  seem  to  be  getting 
along  well  with  our  business,  so  far ;  but  progress  miserably  slow. 
My  journeys  back  and  forth  this  winter  have  been  very  tedious. 
If  you  find  it  difficult  for  you  to  pay  for  Douglas  paper,  I  wish  you 
would  let  me  know  as  I  know  I  took  some  liberty  in  ordering  it  con- 
tinued. You  have  been  very  kind  in  helping  me  and  I  do  not  mean 
to  make  myself  a  burden. 

Your  Affectionate  Father 

John  Brown. 

On  the  6th  of  August  of  the  same  year  he  again  took  up  the 
religious  question  with  his  son  John  in  this  fashion :  ^^ 

Akron,  Ohio  6th  Aug  1852 

Dear  Son  John 

One  word  in  regard  to  the,religious  belief  of  yourself,  &  the  ideas 
of  several  of  my  children.-^y  affections  are  too  deep  rooted  to  be 
alienated  from  them,  but  'my  Grey  Hairs  must  go  down  to  the  grave 
in  sorrow,'  unless  the  'true  God'  forgive  their  denyal,  &  rejection 
of  him,  &  open  their  Eyes.  I  am  perfectly  conscious  that  their  '  Eyes 
are  blinded'  to  the  real  Truth,  &  minds  prejudiced  by  Hearts  un- 
reconciled to  their  maker  &  judge;  &  that  they  have  no  right  appre- 
ciation of  his  true  character,  nor  of  their  Own.  'A  deceived  Heart 
hath  turned  them  aside.'  That  God  in  infinite  mercy  for  Christs 
sake  may  grant  to  you  &  Wealthy,  &  to  my  other  Children  'Eyes 
to  see '  is  the  most  earnest  and  constant  prayer  of  your  Affectionate 
Father 

John  Brown. 

Just  a  year  later,  John  Brown  returned  to  the  charge  and 
spent  a  month  writing  a  letter  of  pamphlet  length,  mostly 
composed  of  Scriptural  quotations  strung  together.*'  "I  do 
notfeel  'estranged  from  my  children,'"  hewrote,  "but  Icannot 
flatter  them,  nor  cry  peace  when  there  is  no  peace."  He  was 
particularly  pained  because,  as  he  said  of  his  younger  sons: 
"After  thorough  and  candid  investigation  they  have  discovered 
the  Bible  to  be  all  a  fiction !  Shall  I  add  that  a  letter  received 
from  you  sometime  since  gave  me  little  else  than  pain  and 
sorrow?  'The  righteous  shall  hold  on  his  way:'  'By  and  by 
\  he  is  offended.' " 

It  was  his  all-impelling  desire  to  help  the  colored  people 
that  led  him  early  to  plan  for  the  removal  of  his  family  to  the 
Adirondacks.   Gerrit  Smith,  of  Peterboro,  had  offered  to  give, 


HIS  GREATEST  OR  PRINCIPAL  OBJECT       71 

on  August  I,  1846,  no  less  than  one  hundred  and  twenty 
thousand  acres  of  land  of  his  vast  patrimony  in  northern 
New  York  to  worthy  colored  people,  whom  he  aided  in  many 
other  ways  as  well."  By  April  8,  1848,  John  Brown  had  fully 
decided  to  settle  his  family  in  the  midst  of  the  negro  colonists, 
in  order  to  aid  them  by  example  and  precept.  He  later  visited 
his  brother-in-law,  Orson  Day,  who  was  then  living  in  White- 
hall, New  York,  and  from  Mr.  Day's  home  went  on  into  the 
Adirondack  wilderness  as  far  as  the  little  negro  settlement 
of  North  Elba,  where  he  became  convinced  that  this  was  the 
place  for  him  to  settle.  He  was  at  once  charmed  with  the 
superb  scenery  which  has  made  this  region  of  late  such  a 
highly  prized  summer  resort.  The  great  mountains  appealed 
irresistibly  to  him,  and  the  negro  colony  offered  an  opportu- 
nity for  training  men  in  the  armed  warfare  against  slavery 
which  was  now  taking  shape  in  his  mind.  Gerrit  Smith,  whom 
Brown  had  visited  on  April  8,  1848,  before  seeing  North  Elba, 
was  greatly  pleased  at  the  prospect  of  having  so  sturdy  and 
experienced  a  farmer  settle  on  his  land,  and  became  forthwith 
a  warm  friend  of  his  visitor  from  Springfield."  Thus  began  a 
relationship  of  enormous  value  to  John  Brown  as  the  years 
passed,  without  which  it  is  by  no  means  certain  that  he  could 
have  obtained  the  "greatest  or  principal  object"  of  his  life  to 
the  extent  he  did.  No  one  in  the  North  was  more  earnest  in 
his  opposition  to  slavery  than  Gerrit  Smith,  and  none  could 
reinforce  their  opinions  with  such  princely  generosity,  or  gave 
as  readily  and  as  unselfishly.  Chosen  a  member  of  Congress 
in  1852,  as  an  independent  candidate,  Gerrit  Smith  had  long 
been  no  mean  figure  in  State  politics.  Indeed,  in  commenting 
on  his  going  to  Congress,  Horace  Greeley  thus  described  Mr. 
Smith  to  his  readers :'«  "We  are  heartily  glad  that  Gerrit 
Smith  is  going  to  Washington.  He  is  an  honest,  brave,  kind- 
hearted  Christian  philanthropist,  whose  religion  is  not  put 
aside  with  his  Sunday  cloak,  but  lasts  him  clear  through  the 
week.  We  think  him  very  wrong  in  some  of  his  notions  of 
political  economy,  and  quite  mistaken  in  his  ideas  that  the 
Constitution  is  inimical  to  slavery,  and  that  injustice  cannot 
be  legalized ;  but  we  heartily  wish  more  such  great,  pure,  loving 
souls  could  find  their  way  into  Congress.  He  will  find  his  seat 
there  anything  but  comfortable,  but  his  presence  there  will  do 


72  JOHN  BROWN 

good,  and  the  country  will  know  him  better  and  esteem  him 
more  highly  than  it  has  yet  done."  Of  this  philanthropist 
Brown  purchased  several  farms,  paying  for  them  as  rapidly  as 
his  circumstances  permitted. 

The  first  removal  of  his  family  to  North  Elba  or  Timbucto, 
as  it  was  called  in  its  early  days,  occurred  in  the  spring  of  1849, 
the  year  of  his  European  trip.  As  there  was  no  home  on  his 
land  and  he  could  not  himself  reside  much  in  North  Elba, 
because  of  the  necessity  of  carrying  on  the  business  in  Spring- 
field, John  Brown  hired  for  two  years  the  farm  of  a  Mr.  Flan- 
ders, on  the  road  from  Keene  to  Lake  Placid."  It  had  a  good 
barn  on  it,  but  only  a  tiny  one-story  house.  "  It  is  small,"  said 
Brown  to  his  family,  "but  the  main  thing  is  all  keep  good 
natured."  Some  fine  Devon  cattle  bought  in  Connecticut 
were  driven  to  the  new  home  by  three  sons,  Owen,  Watson  and 
Salmon,  and  with  these  animals  Brown  won,  in  September, 
1850,  a  prize  at  the  Essex  County  Fair  by  an  exhibition  of  cat- 
tle which,  according  to  the  annual  report  of  the  exhibition  so- 
ciety in  control,  "attracted  great  attention  and  added  much 
to  the  interest  of  the  fair."  **  He  was  able,  also,  to  buy  an  ex- 
cellent pair  of  horses;  the  driver,  Thomas  Jefferson,  a  colored 
man,  who  at  the  same  time  moved  his  family  from  Troy  to 
North  Elba,  was  in  Brown's  employ  until  the  first  stay  in  this 
bleak  mountain  home  came  to  an  end.  That  Brown  felt  deeply 
his  responsibility  towards  his  negro  neighbors  appears  from 
the  following  extract  from  a  letter,  one  of  many  written  to 
Willis  A.  Hodges,  who  was  likewise  active  in  settling  negroes 
on  the  Smith  lands :  ^' 

Springfield,  Mass.  January  22,  1849. 

Friend  Hodges — Dear  Sir:  Yours  of  the  nth  January  reached 
me  a  day  or  two  since.  We  are  all  glad  to  hear  from  you  again  and 
that  you  were  getting  along  well  with  the  exception  of  your  own 
ill  health.  We  hope  to  hear  better  news  from  you  in  regard  to  that 
the  next  we  get  from  you.  .  .  . 

Say  to  my  colored  friends  with  you  that  they  will  be  no  losers  by 
keeping  their  patience  a  little  about  building  lots.  They  can  busy 
themselves  in  cutting  plenty  of  hard  wood  and  in  getting  any  work 
they  can  find  until  spring,  and  they  need  not  fear  getting  too  much 
wood  provided.  Do  not  let  anyone  forget  the  vast  importance  of 
sustaining  the  very  best  character  for  honesty,  truth,  industry  and 
faithfulness.    I  hope  every  one  will  be  determined  to  not  merely 


HIS  GREATEST  OR  PRINCIPAL  OBJECT       73 

conduct  as  well  as  the  whites,  but  to  set  them  an  example  in  all 
things.  I  am  much  pleased  that  your  nephew  has  concluded  to  hang 
on  like  a  man. 
With  my  best  wishes  for  every  one,  I  remain. 

Yours  in  truth 

John  Brown 

P.  S.  I  hear  that  all  are  getting  through  the  winter  middling  well 
at  Timbucto,  for  which  I  would  praise  the  Lord.  J.  B. 

The  original  settlers  were  not  particularly  pleased  at  the 
arrival  of  so  many  colored  people,  and  were  reluctant  at  first 
to  supply  them  with  provisions,  charging,  whep  they  did 
so,  exorbitant  prices.  So  rapidly  were  the  new  arrivals' 
means  exhausted  that  there  was  some  danger  of  famine.  When 
John  Brown  came  on  the  scene,  he  at  once  defended  them 
against  those  who  sought  to  injure  them,  saving  to  one  col- 
ored man  the  farm  of  which  he  was  being  cheated.  Seeing 
their  destitution,  he  sought  in  every  way  to  provide  work 
for  them,  and  on  each  Sabbath  when  he  was  there,  he  called 
the  negroes  together  for  instruction  in  the  Scriptures.  On 
October  25,  1848,  before  he  had  moved  to  North  Elba,  he 
bought  five  barrels  of  pork  and  five  of  flour,  and  shipped 
them  to  Mr.  Hodges;  the  contents  of  at  least  four  of  these 
barrels  were  distributed  among  the  needy  colored  at  Tim- 
bucto."" But  even  with  all  of  the  supervision  and  aid  John 
Brown  and  Hodges  gave,  these  settlements  were  not  a  success. 
Beautiful  as  the  region  was  and  is,  it  is  not  a  farming  coun- 
try. To  live  required  the  most  arduous  labor  in  the  brief 
summer  season.  There  were  few  tourists  to  help  out  the  set- 
tlers' income,  and  the  cold,  desolate  and  bleak  winters  bore 
heavily  upon  all,  but  particularly  upon  the  negroes,  many  of 
whom  were  there  by  virtue  of  their  having  fled  from  slavery 
in  the  warm  Southern  States,  where  they  had  known  hitherto 
no  stimulus  to  labor  save  the  lash.  There  were  good  common 
schools,  and  a  church  at  which,  in  summer,  visiting  ministers 
of  note  preached."  But  with  all  that.  North  Elba  was  a  dreary 
and  an  inaccessible  place,  particularly  in  winter.  On  one  occa- 
sion, strong  as  he  was,  John  Brown  nearly  lost  his  life  in  the 
deep  snow  in  endeavoring  to  walk  in  from  Keene.  "Before  he 
came  within  several  miles  of  home,"  so  his  daughter  Ruth  re- 
membered the  story,^''  "he  got  so  tired  and  lame  that  he  had  to 


74  JOHN  BROWN 

sit  down  in  the  road.  The  snow  was  very  deep  and  the  road  but 
little  trodden.  He  got  up  again  after  a  little  while,  went  on  as 
far  as  he  could,  and  sat  down  once  more.  He  walked  a  long 
distance  in  that  way,  and  at  last  lay  down  with  fatigue,  in  the 
deep  snow  beside  the  path,  and  thought  he  should  get  chilled 
there  and  die.  While  lying  so,  a  man  passed  him  on  foot,  but 
did  not  notice  him.  Father  guessed  the  man  thought  he  was 
drunk,  or  else  did  not  see  him.  He  lay  there  and  rested  a  while 
and  then  started  on  again,  though  in  great  pain,  and  made  out 
to  reach  the  first  house,  Robert  Scott's.  .  .  ." 

Shortly  after  the  Brown  family  moved  into  the  Flanders 
house  at  North  Elba,  Richard  Henry  Dana,  Jr.,  of  Boston,  and 
two  friends  came  to  their  home,  June  27,  1849,  in  a  state 
of  utter  exhaustion,  having  lost  their  way  in  the  woods  and 
been  for  twenty-four  hours  without  food.  They  were  kindly 
received  and  cared  for.  Fortunately,  Mr.  Dana  kept  an  exten- 
sive diary,  which  enabled  him  in  after  years  to  publish  the  fol- 
lowing account  from  it  of  his  impressions  of  the  Brown  family 
in  the  Adirondacks : " 

"The  place  belonged  to  a  man  named  Brown,  originally  from 
Berkshire  in  Massachusetts,  a  thin,  sinewy,  hard-favored,  clear- 
headed, honest-minded  man,  who  had  spent  all  his  days  as  a  frontier 
farmer.  On  conversing  with  him,  we  found  him  well  informed  on 
most  subjects,  especially  in  the  natural  sciences.  He  had  books, 
and  had  evidently  made  a  diligent  use  of  them.  Having  acquired 
some  property,  he  was  able  to  keep  a  good  farm,  and  had  confess- 
edly the  best  cattle  and  best  farming  utensils  for  miles  around. 
His  wife  looked  superior  to  the  poor  place  they  lived  in,  which  was  a 
cabin,  with  only  four  rooms.  She  appeared  to  be  out  of  health.  He 
seemed  to  have  an  unlimited  family  of  children,  from  a  cheerful, 
nice  healthy  woman  of  twenty  or  so,  and  a  full  sized  red-haired  son, 
who  seemed  to  be  foreman  of  the  farm,  through  every  grade  of  boy 
and  girl  to  a  couple  that  could  hardly  speak  plain.  .  .  .  June  2g, 
Friday  —  After  breakfast,  started  for  home.  .  .  .  We  stopped  at 
the  Browns'  cabin  on  our  way,  and  took  affectionate  leave  of  the 
family  that  had  shown  us  so  much  kindness.  We  found  them  at 
breakfast,  in  the  patriarchal  style.  Mr.  and  Mrs.  Brown  and  their 
large  family  of  children  with  the  hired  men  and  women,  including 
three  negroes,  all  at  the  table  together.  Their  meal  was  neat, 
substantial,  and  wholesome." 

John  Brown  was  at  North  Elba  in  January,  1851,  soon  after 
the  passage  of  the  Fugitive  Slave  Law,  which  stirred  him  to 


HIS  GREATEST  OR  PRINCIPAL  OBJECT       75 

the  depths  and  had  just  led  him  to  organize  his  Springfield 
Gileadites.  He  at  once  went  around  among  his  colored  friends 
who  were  fugitives  and  urged  them  to  resist  the  law  at  all  costs. 
Men  and  women,  he  declared,  should  arm  themselves  and  re- 
fuse to  be  taken  alive.  He  told  his  children  of  this  wicked  bill, 
and  commanded  them  to  join  in  resisting  any  attempt  that 
might  be  made  to  drag  back  into  Southern  chains  their  neigh- 
bors who  had  been  slaves,  and  to  give  no  thought  to  possible 
fines  and  imprisonment.  "Our  faithful  boy,  Cyrus,"  wrote 
Mrs.  Ruth  Brown  Thompson  afterwards,  "was  one  of  that 
class  and  it  aroused  our  feelings  so  that  we  would  all  have 
defended  him,  if  the  women  folks  had  had  to  resort  to  hot 
water.    Father  said  '  Their  cup  of  iniquity  is  almost  full.' " 

The  reasons  for  John  Brown's  abandonment  of  North  Elba 
in  1851,  after  only  two  years  there,  were  the  burden  of  the  law- 
suits of  Perkins  &  Brown,  which  kept  him  travelling  about 
from  one  place  to  another,  and  the  necessity  of  continuing  in 
partnership  with  Mr.  Perkins  in  the  farming  and  sheep-raising 
side  of  their  business.  It  was  in  March,  1851,  that  he  again 
moved  his  family,  now  so  accustomed  to  shifting  its  domicile, 
back  to  Akron,  the  sons  driving  overland  the  prize  Devon  cat- 
tle." As  we  have  seen, the  partnership  with  Mr.  Perkins  could 
not  be  terminated  as  quickly  thereafter  as  John  Brown  had 
hoped,  and  when  it  was,  he  was  compelled  to  work  the  three 
hired  farms  for  another  year  before  he  had  accumulated  suffi- 
cient money  to  move  back  to  North  Elba  and  to  make  possible 
his  venture  to  Kansas.  Throughout  1854  he  was  busily  plan- 
ning for  his  removal  to  North  Elba  and  for  the  purchase  of  an- 
other small  farm  there.  The  record-breaking  drought  of  1854 
ruined  many  farmers  in  Ohio,  but  he  fared  much  better,  accord- 
ing to  a  letter  to  his  children  of  August  24,  1854,  than  most 
people.  His  two  sons,  Jason  and  Owen,  were  living  on  a  large 
farm  belonging  to  Mr.  Perkins  near  Tallmadge;  they  with 
John  Brown,  Jr.,  had,  as  already  stated,  made  up  their  minds 
to  seek  new  homes  in  Kansas,  in  order  to  help  stem  the  slave- 
power  which,  with  the  opening  of  that  Territory  by  the  Kan- 
sas and  Nebraska  act  of  May  30,  1854,  was  now  seeking  to 
make  Kansas  its  own.  On  February  13,  1855,  John  Brown 
felt  certain  that  he  could  get  off  to  North  Elba  with  his 
immediate  family  in  March ;  to  accomplish  this  purpose  he 


76  JOHN  BROWN 

was  willing,  if  necessary,  to  sacrifice  some  of  his  Devon  cat- 
tle.^5  Not  until  June,  1855,  however,  was  he  able  to  make  the 
move: 

RocKFORD  III  4th  June  1855 

Dear  Children  .       . ,  ,      -^t.     .      , 

I  write  just  to  say  that  I  have  finally  sold  my  cattle  without  mak- 
ing much  sacrifise;  &  expect  to  be  on  the  way  home  Tomorrow. 
Oliver  expects  to  remain  behind  &  go  to  Kansas.  After  I  get  home 
I  expect  to  set  out  with  the  family  for  North  Elba  as  soon  as  we 
can  get  ready:  &  we  may  possibly  get  off  this  Week;  but  hardly 
think  we  can.  I  have  heard  nothing  further  as  yet  from  the  Boys 
at  Kansas   All  were  well  at  home  a  few  days  since. 

Your  Affectionate  Father 

John  Brown" 

When  he  and  his  charges  finally  arrived  at  North  Elba,  they 
moved  into  an  unplastered  four-room  house,  the  rudest  kind 
of  a  pioneer  home,  built  for  him  by  his  son-in-law,  Henry 
Thompson,  who  had  married  his  daughter  Ruth.  Here  the 
family  still  lived  when  the  disaster  at  Harper's  Ferry  deprived 
it  of  its  head  and  two  of  his  most  promising  sons.  But  though 
John  Brown  was  so  attracted  by  North  Elba  as  to  buy  three 
farms  there,"  and  though  the  very  pioneering  aspect  of  the 
new  life  appealed  to  him,  his  restlessness  left  him  no  peace. 
He  was  now  ready  to  abandon  the  field  to  which  in  the  year 
before  he  had  felt  himself  committed  to  operate,  and  to  follow 
his  sons  to  Kansas.  So  strong  was  the  call  to  duty  there  that 
he  was  impelled  to  leave  everything  at  North  Elba,  —  the  un- 
completed house,  the  newly  arrived  family  with  no  fixed  means 
of  support  and  the  severest  of  winter  climates  to  contend  with, 
his  activity  among  his  colored  neighbors,  and  his  still  unpaid 
debts  in  Ohio  and  elsewhere.  Besides  his  sons,  Owen,  Oliver, 
Salmon,  Frederick,  Jason  and  John  Brown,  Jr.,  Henry  Thomp- 
son, too,  yielded  to  the  desire  to  aid  in  carving  out  with  axe 
and  rifle  Kansas's  destiny.  There  remained  at  North  Elba 
of  the  grown  sons  only  Watson,  then  in  his  twentieth  year,  to 
aid  their  brave  mother  and  home-keeper.  But  she  was  quite 
ready  to  fight  cold  and  privation,  if  thereby  her  husband  and 
sons  could  live  up  to  what  they  as  truly  considered  the  call  of 
duty  as  did  their  Revolutionary  ancestor,  who  gave  up  his  life 
in  New  York  City,  the  appeal  to  arms  in  1777. 


HIS  GREATEST  OR  PRINCIPAL  OBJECT       77 

Thenceforth  John  Brown  could  give  free  rein  to  his  Wander- 
lust; the  shackles  of  business  Hfe  dropped  from  him.  He  was 
now  bowed  and  rapidly  turning  gray ;  to  every  one's  lips  the  ad- 
jective "  old  "  leaped  as  they  saw  him.  But  his  was  not  the  age 
of  senility,  nor  of  weariness  with  life ;  nor  were  the  lines  of  care 
due  solely  to  family  and  business  anxieties,  or  the  hard  labor  of 
the  fields.  They  were  rather  the  marks  of  the  fires  consuming 
within;  of  the  indomitable  purpose  that  was  the  mainspring  of 
every  action;  of  a  life  devoted,  a  spirit  inspired.  Emancipa- 
tion from  the  counter  and  the  harrow  came  joyfully  to  him  at 
the  time  of  life  when  most  men  begin  to  long  for  rest  and  the 
repose  of  a  quiet,  well-ordered  home.  Thenceforth  he  was  free 
to  move  where  he  pleased,  to  devote  every  thought  to  his  bat- 
tle with  the  slave-power  he  staggered,  which  then  knew  no- 
thing of  his  existence. 

The  metamorphosis  was  now  complete.  The  staid,  sombre 
merchant  and  patriarchal  family-head  was  ready  to  become 
Captain  John  Brown  of  Osawatomie,  at  the  mere  mention  of 
whose  name  Border  Ruffians  and  swashbuckling  adherents 
of  the  institution  of  slavery  trembled  and  often  fled.  Kansas 
gave  John  Brown  the  opportunity  to  test  himself  as  a  guerrilla- 
leader  for  which  he  had  longed;  for  no  other  purpose  did  he 
proceed  to  the  Territory ;  to  become  a  settler  there,  as  he  had 
hoped  to  in  Virginia  in  1840,  was  furthest  from  his  thoughts. 
Leadership  came  readily  to  him;  to  those  who  fell  under  his 
sway,  it  seemed  as  natural  that  he  should  become  the  com- 
mander as  that  there  should  be  a  President  in  Washington. 
Even  those  who  walked  not  in  his  ways  respected  him  as  a 
captain  of  grim  determination,  of  iron  will.  Of  no  particular 
distinction  as  an  executive  in  his  business  enterprises,  he  had 
somehow  or  other  acquired  in  the  home  circle,  in  the  marts 
of  trade,  in  the  quiet  fields  and  woods,  that  something  which 
makes  some  men  as  inevitably  leaders  as  others  are  predes- 
tined to  become  satellites  or  lieutenants  of  those  of  stronger 
will,  greater  imagination  and  clearer  prevision.  Imagination 
our  wool-merchant  had,  even  if  its  range  was  not  great;  for 
when  the  hour  came  to  act,  he  was  on  hand  with  his  nerves 
under  control,  his  head  clear,  his  courage  unbounded,  ready 
to  meet  emergencies.  Indeed,  one  may  ask  if  he  really  had 
nerves,  so  complete  was  their  subordination  to  the  ego,  to  the 


78  JOHN  BROWN 

will  that  forced  its  own  way,  either  when  it  was  a  matter  of 
convincing  rebellious  followers  of  the  wisdom  of  the  plan  they 
revolted  against,  or  of  standing  steadily  on  the  scaffold  trap- 
door to  eternity.  Yet  this  man  was  the  product  of  piping 
times  of  peace;  of  the  counting-room  and  the  petty  life  of  the 
rural  follower  of  a  trade,  which  are  so  widely  supposed  to 
weaken  the  fibre,  attenuate  the  blood  and  develop  the  craven. 
The  secret  of  this  riddle  lies  not  merely  in  the  Puritan  inher- 
itances of  John  Brown,  nor  in  his  iron  will,  nor  in  his  ability 
to  visualize  himself  and  his  men  in  a  mountain  stronghold  of 
the  Alleghenies.  To  all  these  powers  of  an  intense  nature  were 
added  the  driving  force  of  a  mighty  and  unselfish  purpose, 
and  the  readiness  to  devote  life  itself  to  the  welfare  of  others. 
However  one  may  dislike  the  methods  he  adopted  or  the 
views  he  held,  here  is,  after  all,  the  explanation  of  the  forging 
of  this  rough,  natural  leader  of  men.  "Why,"  said  one  of  his 
abolition  co-workers,  who  believed  in  very  different  means 
of  attacking  slavery,  "it  is  the  best  investment  for  the  soul's 
welfare  possible  to  take  hold  of  something  that  is  righteous 
but  unpopular.  .  .  .  It  teaches  us  to  know  ourselves,  to  know 
what  we  are  relying  on,  whether  we  love  the  praise  of  men, 
or  the  praise  of  God."  The  essentially  ennobling  feature  of 
John  Brown's  career,  that  which  enabled  him  to  draw  men 
to  him  as  if  by  a  magnet,  was  his  willingness  to  suffer  for 
others, — in  short,  the  straightforward  unselfishness  of  the 
man. 

As  John  Brown  left  for  Kansas,  he  turned  once  more 
to  the  members  of  his  family  and  said:  "If  it  is  so  painful 
for  us  to  part  with  the  hope  of  meeting  again,  how  of  poor 
slaves?"^* 


CHAPTER  III 
IN  THE  WAKE  OF  THE  WAR  CLOUD 

"  If  you  or  any  of  my  family  are  disposed  to  go  to  Kansas  or 
Nebraska,  with  a  view  to  help  defeat  Satan  and  his  legions  in 
that  direction,  I  have  not  a  word  to  say ;  but  I  feel  committed 
to  operate  in  another  part  of  the  field.  If  I  were  not  so  com- 
mitted, I  would  be  on  my  way  this  fall," —  thus  it  was  that 
John  Brown  wrote  to  his  son  John  on  August  21,  1854.1  The 
latter  and  his  brothers  had,  as  we  have  seen,  grown  restless 
in  Ohio,  where  they  then  resided  with  but  indifferent  prospects 
for  material  success,  particularly  because  of  the  great  damage 
done  by  the  drought  of  1854;  ^  and  the  emigration  of  their 
uncle,  the  Rev.  Samuel  Lyle  Adair,  to  Osawatomie,  Kansas, 
had  determined  their  settling  in  that  locality.'  To  Kansas 
they  would,  however,  have  gone  had  he  not  preceded  them, 
for  their  inherited  antipathy  to  slavery  made  them  earnest 
observers  of  the  exciting  political  conditions  resulting  from 
the  Kansas-Nebraska  bill,  which  left  to  the  settlers  them- 
selves the  decision  whether  slavery  should  or  should  not  exist 
within  those  Territories.  This  abrogation  of  the  Missouri 
Compromise  of  1820,  which  had  prohibited  slavery  north  of 
36°  30'  north  latitude,  roused  its  enemies  in  the  North  to 
unwonted  efforts.  If,  they  reasoned,  the  South  could  thus 
abrogate  a  sacred  agreement  which  had  for  thirty-four  years 
prevented  the  growth  of  slavery  toward  the  North,  it  might 
within  a  few  years  permit  the  extension  of  its  favorite  institu- 
tion to  still  other  portions  of  the  original  Louisiana  purchase 
acquired  from  France  in  1803.  Only  seven  years  had  then 
elapsed  since  the  unholy  war  with  Mexico  had  made  possible 
the  annexation  of  the  great  State  of  Texas  and  the  other  Terri- 
tories acquired  by  the  peace  treaty  of  1848.  That  tremendous 
expansion  to  the  south  and  southwest  would,  it  was  thought, 
satisfy  the  slaveholders  for  years  to  come.  But  the  wasteful- 
ness and  short-sightedness  of  their  methods  of  cotton-culture, 
the  uneconomic  and  shiftless  character  of  slave  labor  itself, 
made  the  appetite  for  virgin  lands  insatiable. 


8o  JOHN  BROWN 

Moreover,  Southern  leaders  were  blind  neither  to  the  danger 
to  their  political  supremacy  involved  in  the  carving  of  new 
free  States  out  of  the  great  West,  whose  possibilities  were  pow 
beginning  to  be  understood  because  of  the  rush  to  Califor- 
nia, nor  to  the  peculiarly  dangerous  position  of  their  outpost 
State,  Missouri.*  With  Illinois  on  the  east  and  Iowa  on  the 
north,  if  Kansas  and  Nebraska  should  become  free  territory, 
Missouri  would  be  surrounded  on  three  sides  by  Abolitionists, 
and  the  safety  of  her  unpaid  labor  system  would  be  gravely 
menaced.  Since  the  popular  indignation  in  the  North  had 
failed  to  prevent  the  passage  of  the  Kansas-Nebraska  bill, 
for  which  forty-four  Northern  Democrats  voted  in  the  House 
and  fourteen  in  the  Senate,  under  the  lead  of  Stephen  A. 
Douglas,  the  North  could  revenge  itself  only  by  preventing 
the  return  to  Washington  of  thirty-seven  out  of  the  forty- 
four  Congressmen,^  and  by  throwing  itself  heartily  into  the 
work  of  beating  the  South  at  its  own  game  of  colonization. 
By  emigrant  aid  societies,  by  widespread  appeals  to  the 
liberty-loving  citizens  of  the  North  to  settle  Kansas,  by  mass 
meetings  and  public  subscriptions  to  the  funds  raised  to  for- 
ward settlers  in  large  parties  to  the  new  Territories,  —  in  a 
hundred  different  ways,  some  of  the  necessary  thousands  were 
induced  to  become  a  living  bulwark  to  the  extension  of  slav- 
ery. Fortunately  for  them,  the  propagandists  were  aided  enor- 
mously by  the  rich  character  of  the  Kansas  soil,  the  beauty 
of  its  prairies,  the  charm  of  its  climate,  and  the  promise  of  its 
streams.  Had  there  been  no  question  of  slavery  or  freedom 
involved,  there  must  have  been  the  same  prompt  taking  up 
of  the  public  lands  which  has  inevitaWy  followed  the  throwing 
open  of  new  territory  to  settlement.  j|^he  sons  of  John  Brown 
were  no  more  unmoved  by  the  "gTowing  accounts  of  the 
extraordinary  fertility,  healthfulness  and  beauty  of  the  terri- 
tory of  Kansas,"  than  were  thousands  of  others  who  sold  off 
their  homes  in  New  York,  Ohio  and  Illinois  to  better  their 
fortunes  beyond  the  Missouri  River.  To  many  of  them,  as  to 
the  Browns,  the  opportunity  to  help  save  Kansas  from  the 
curse  of  slavery  was  heartily  welcome;  to  multitudes  of  others 
this  was  a  subsidiary  issue,  which  interested  them  but  little 
until  they  suddenly  found  themselves  in  the  maelstrom  of 
Kansas  political  passions  and  compelled  to  take  sides,  what- 
ever their  original  opinions  or  desires. 


IN  THE  WAKE  OF  THE  WAR  CLOUD         8i 

Owen,  Frederick  and  Salmon  Brown  left  Ohio  for  Kansas, 
all  unsuspicious  of  the  tragedies  before  them,  in  October,  1854, 
taking  eleven  head  of  cattle  and  three  horses,  their  joint 
property,  to  Chicago  by  water,  and  driving  them  thence  to 
Meridosia,  Illinois.  Here  men  and  animals  wintered  until  the 
arrival  of  spring  made  it  possible  for  them  to  cross  the  Mis- 
souri.«  On  April  20,  1855,  they  entered  Kansas,  and  on  May 
7,  Jason  and  John  were  also  at  Osawatomie,'  having  left  Ohio 
with  their  families  at  the  opening  of  navigation.*  Theirs  was 
a  typical  Kansas  settler's  journey;  to  hundreds  of  other 
Kansas  home-seekers  would  John  Brown,  Jr.'s  narrative  of 
this  migration  read  almost  as  if  written  of  their  own  experi- 
ences after  leaving  St.  Louis : 

"At  this  period  there  were  no  railroads  west  of  St.  Louis;  our 
journey  must  be  continued  by  boat  on  the  Missouri  at  a  time  of 
extremely  low  water,  or  by  stage  at  great  expense.  We  chose  the 
river  route,  taking  passage  on  the  steamer  'New  Lucy,'  which  too 
late  we  found  crowded  with  passengers,  mostly  men  from  the  South 
bound  for  Kansas.  That  they  were  from  the  South  was  plainly  in- 
dicated bj'  their  language  and  dress ;  while  their  drinking,  profanity, 
and  display  of  revolvers  and  bowie-knives,  openly  wearing  them  as 
an  essential  part  of  their  make-up,  clearly  showed  the  class  to  which 
they  belonged  and  that  their  mission  was  to  aid  in  establishing 
slavery  in  Kansas. 

"A  box  of  fruit-trees  and  grape-vines  which  my  brother  Jason 
had  brought  from  Ohio,  our  plow  and  the  few  agricultural  imple- 
ments we  had  on  the  deck  of  that  steamer,  looked  lonesome,  for 
these  were  all  we  could  see  which  were  adapted  to  the  occupations 
of  peace.  Then  for  the  first  time  arose  in  our  mind  the  query:  Must 
the  fertile  prairies  of  Kansas,  through  a  struggle  at  arms,  be  first 
secured  to  freedom  before  free  men  can  sow  and  reap?  If  so,  how 
poorly  were  we  prepared  for  such  work  will  be  seen  when  I  say  that 
for  arms  for  five  of  us  brothers  we  had  only  two  small  squirrel  rifles 
and  one  revolver.  But  before  we  reached  our  destination  other 
matters  claimed  our  attention.  Cholera,  which  then  prevailed  to 
some  extent  at  St.  Louis,  broke  out  among  our  passengers,  a  num- 
ber of  whom  died.  Among  these.  Brother  Jason's  son,  Austin,  aged 
four  years,  the  elder  of  his  two  children,  fell  a  victim  to  this  scourge, 
and  while  our  boat  lay  by  for  repair  of  a  broken  rudder  at  Waverley, 
Mo.,  we  buried  him  at  night  near  that  panic-stricken  town,  our 

'  Mrs.  Annie  Brown  Adams  states  that  Salmon  and  Oliver  Brown,  as  well  as 
their  father  and  Henry  Thompson,  went  to  Kansas  only  to  fight,  not  to  settle; 
the  others  were  home-seekers.  (See  her  letter  of  September  5, 1886,  to  the  Kan- 
sas Historical  Society.) 


82  JOHN  BROWN 

lonely  way  illumined  only  by  the  lightning  of  a  furious  thunder- 
storm. 

"True  to  his  spirit  of  hatred  of  Northern  people,  our  captain, 
without  warning  to  us  on  shore,  cast  off  his  lines  and  left  us  to  make 
our  way  by  stage  to  Kansas  City,  to  which  place  we  had  already 
paid  our  fare  by  boat.  Before  we  reached  there,  however,  we  be- 
came very  hungry,  and  endeavored  to  buy  food  at  various  farm- 
houses on  the  way;  but  the  occupants,  judging  from  our  speech 
that  we  were  not  from  the  South,  always  denied  us,  saying,  'We 
have  nothing  for  you.'  The  only  exception  to  this  answer  was  at 
the  stage-house  at  Independence,  Mo. 

"Arrived  in  Kansas,  her  lovely  prairies  and  wooded  streams 
seemed  to  us  indeed  like  a  haven  of  rest.  Here  in  prospect  we  saw 
our  cattle  increased  to  hundreds  and  possibly  to  thousands,  fields 
of  corn,  orchards,  and  vineyards.  At  once  we  set  about  the  work 
through  which  only  our  visions  of  prosperity  could  be  realized.  Our 
tents  would  suffice  for  shelter  until  we  could  plow  our  land,  plant 
corn  and  other  crops,  fruit-trees,  and  vines,  cut  and  secure  us  hay 
enough  of  the  waving  grass  to  supply  our  stock  the  coming  winter.'" 

But  if  they  were  thus  apparently  bent  on  the  occupations  of 
peace,  they  were  from  the  beginning  keeping  an  eye  out  for 
the  clash  of  arms.  In  his  very  first  letter  from  the  Territory 
to  his  father,  dated  "Brownsville,"  May  21,  1855,  Salmon, 
while  mentioning  his  "very  pleasant  trip  through  Missouri," 
added : 

"We  saw  some  of  the  curses  of  slavery  and  they  are  many.  .  . . 
The  boys  have  their  feelings  well  worked  up  so  that  I  think  that 
they  will  fight,  there  is  a  great  lack  of  arms  here  in  Brownsville, 
I  feel  more  like  fight  now  than  I  ever  did  before  and  would  be  glad 
to  go  to  Alabama." 

He  reported  further  that  he  had  no  doubt  of  the  success  of 
their  emigration,  for  they  had  as  many  as  five  good  claims, 
had  planted  considerably  and  could  already  behold  the  first 
tender  shoots  pushing  their  way  into  the  air.  Their  claims 
were  eight  miles  from  Osawatomie,  on  the  very  outskirts  of 
which  stood  and  yet  stands  the  picturesque  log-cabin  which 
for  nearly  fifty  years  served  as  the  homestead  of  the  Adair 
family,  and  is  still  prized  by  them  beyond  all  other  earthly 
possessions.  Here  the  Browns  were  certain  of  a  hearty  wel- 
come from  their  father's  half-sister  Florilla  and  her  husband, 
the  Rev.  Mr.  Adair. 

On   May   20   and   24,   John   Brown,  Jr.,  wrote  a  long, 


IN  THE  WAKE  OF  THE  WAR  CLOUD         83 

minutely  detailed  letter  to  his  father,  in  which  appear  dearly 
the  mixed  motives  that  had  led  to  the  emigration.  The  char- 
acter of  the  country,  the  weather  encountered,  the  planting 
operations  and  the  implements  in  use  are  all  set  forth,  as  well 
as  the  low  financial  condition  to  which  their  frontier  venture 
had  already  brought  them,  and  their  almost  general  satisfac- 
tion with  the  change:' 

"...  Salmon  Fredk  and  Owen  say  that  they  never  was  in  a  coun- 
try that  begun  to  please  them  as  well.  And  I  will  say,  that  the 
present  prospect  for  health,  wealth,  and  usefulness  much  exceeds 
even  my  most  sanguine  anticipations.  I  know  of  no  country  where 
a  poor  man  endowed  with  a  share  of  common  sense  &  with  health, 
can  get  a  start  so  easy.  If  we  can  succeed  in  making  this  a  free  State, 
a  great  work  will  be  accomplished  for  mankind." 

But  the  really  important  part  of  the  letter  deals  with  the 
political  impressions  already  acquired  by  the  new  settlers  of 
four  weeks'  standing: 

"  And  now  I  come  to  the  matter,  that  more  than  all  else  I  intended 
should  be  the  principal  subject  of  this  letter.  I  tell  you  the  truth, 
when  I  say  that  while  the  interest  of  despotism  has  secured  to  its 
cause  hundreds  and  thousands  of  the  meanest  and  most  desperate 
of  men,  armed  to  the  teeth  with  Revolvers,  Bowie  Knives,  Rifles 
&  Cannon,  —  while  they  are  not  only  thoroughly  organized,  but 
under  pay  from  Slave-holders  —  the  friends  of  freedom  are  not  one 
fourth  of  them  half  armed,  and  as  to  Military  Organization  among 
them  it  no  where  exists  in  this  territory  unless  they  have  recently 
done  something  in  Lawrence.  The  result  of  this  is  that  the  people 
here  exhibit  the  most  abject  and  cowardly  spirit,  whenever  their 
dearest  rights  are  invaded  and  trampled  down  by  the  lawless  bands 
of  Miscreants  which  Missouri  has  ready  at  a  moment's  call  to 
pour  in  upon  them.  This  is  the  general  effect  upon  the  people  here 
so  far  as  I  have  noticed,  there  are  a  few,  and  but  a  few  exceptions. 
Of  course  these  foreign  Scoundrels  know  what  kind  of  ^Allies'  they 
have  to  meet.  They  boast  that  they  can  obtain  possession  of  the 
polls  in  any  of  our  election  precincts  without  having  to  fire  a  gun. 
I  enclose  a  piece  which  I  cut  from  a  St.  Louis  paper  named  the  St. 
Louis  'Republican;'  it  shows  the  spirit  which  moves  them.  Now 
Missouri  is  not  alone  in  the  undertaking  to  make  this  a  Slave  State. 
Every  Slaveholding  State  from  Virginia  to  Texas  is  furnishing  men 
and  money  to  fasten  Slavery  upon  this  glorious  land,  by  means  no 
matter  how  foul.   .   .  . 

"Now  the  remedy  we  propose  is,  that  the  Anti  slavery  portion 
of  the  inhabitants  should  immediately,  thoroughly  arm  and  organize 


84  JOHN  BROWN 

themselves  in  military  companies.  In  order  to  effect  this,  some  per- 
sons must  begin  and  lead  in  the  matter.  Here  are  5  men  of  us  who 
are  not  only  anxious  to  fully  prepare,  but  are  thoroughly  deter- 
mined to  fight.  We  can  see  no  other  way  to  meet  the  case.  As  in 
the  language  of  the  memorial  lately  signed  by  the  people  here  and 
sent  to  Congress  petitioning  help, '  it  is  no  longer  a  question  of  negro 
slavery,  but  it  is  the  enslavement  of  ourselves.' 

"The  General  Government  may  be  petitioned  until  the  people 
here  are  grey,  and  no  redress  will  be  had  so  long  as  it  makes  slavery 
its  paramount  interest.  —  We  have  among  us  5,  i  Revolver,  i  Bowie 
Knife,  i  middling  good  Rifle  i  poor  Rifle,  i  small  pocket  pistol 
and  2  slung  shot.  What  we  need  in  order  to  be  thoroughly  armed 
for  each  man,  is  i  Colts  large  sized  Revolver,  i  Allen  &  Thurbers' 
large  sized  Revolver  manufactured  at  Worcester,  Mass,  i  Minnie 
Rifle  —  they  are  manufactured  somewhere  in  Mass  or  Connecticut 
(Mr.  Paine  of  Springfield  would  probably  know)  and  I  heavy  Bowie 
Knife  —  I  think  the  Minnie  Rifles  are  made  so  that  a  sword  bayo- 
net may  be  attached.  With  these  we  could  compete  with  men  who 
even  possessed  Cannon.  The  real  Minnie  Rifle  has  a  killing  range 
almost  equal  to  Cannon  and  of  course  is  more  easily  handled,  per- 
haps enough  so  to  make  up  the  difference.  Now  we  want  you  to 
get  for  us  these  arms.  We  need  them  more  than  we  do  bread.  Would 
not  Gerrit  Smith  or  someone,  furnish  the  money  and  loan  it  to  us 
for  one,  two  or  three  years,  for  the  purpose,  until  we  can  raise 
enough  to  refund  it  from  the  Free  soil  of  Kanzas?  ..." 

This  appeal  for  arms  John  Brown  could  not  have  resisted 
had  he  desired  to.  He  subsequently  recorded  that  on  the 
receipt  of  this  letter  he  was  "fully  resolved  to  proceed  at  once 
to  Kansas;  and  join  his  children.""  The  wish  to  "operate 
elsewhere"  had  disappeared  early  in  1855.  Indeed,  before  the 
second  detachment  of  his  sons  had  started,  he  had  begun  to 
arrange  his  affairs  so  that  he  too  might  emigrate.  On  February 
13  he  notified  John  W.  Cook,  of  Wolcottville,  Conn.,  of  his 
intentions : 

"Since  I  saw  you  I  have  undertaken  to  direct  the  opperations  of 
a  Surveying,  &  exploring  party,  to  be  employed  in  Kansas  for  a 
considerable  time  perhaps  for  some  Two  or  Three  years;  &  I  lack 
for  time  to  make  all  my  arrangements,  &  get  on  to  the  ground  in 
season."  " 

Labor  as  he  might,  he  was  not  able  to  dispose  of  his  cattle, 
wind  up  odds  and  ends  of  his  business  in  Illinois,  Ohio  and 
New  England,  collect  arms  for  his  sons,  take  leave  of  his 
family  at  North  Elba  and  start  for  the  West,  until  the  middle 


IN  THE  WAKE  OF  THE  WAR  CLOUD         85 

of  August.  On  June  28  he  was  at  Syracuse,  attending  a  con- 
vention of  anti-slavery  men  who  called  themselves  Radical 
Political  Abolitionists.  Frederick  Douglass,  Gerrit  Smith, 
Lewis  Tappan  and  Samuel  J.  May  were  among  the  speakers, 
as  well  as  John  Brown,  and  the  convention  unanimously 
resolved  that  its  members  should  do  what  they  could  to 
prevent  the  return  of  fugitives.  There  was,  however,  con- 
siderable difference  of  opinion  in  consequence  of  the  proposal 
to  raise  money  for  John  Brown,  that  he  might  collect  arms 
for  his  sons.  Douglass,  of  course,  spoke  earnestly  in  Brown's 
behalf.  Others  were  unwilling  to  encourage  violence,  but,  as 
Douglass  afterwards  reported :  "The  collection  was  taken  up 
with  much  spirit,  nevertheless;  for  Capt.  Brown  was  present 
and  spoke  for  himself ;  and  when  he  spoke  men  believed  in  the 
man."  12  He  received  in  all  about  sixty  dollars  in  cash,  twenty 
dollars  being  from  Gerrit  Smith,  and  five  dollars  from  an  old 
British  Army  officer,  Charles  Stuart.  By  April  24  he  was  able 
to  ship  from  Springfield  to  Cleveland  a  box  of  firearms  and 
flasks,  which  he  subsequently  picked  up  in  Cleveland  on  his 
way  West.i' 

Ex-Sheriff  S.  A.  Lane,  of  Akron,  testified,  in  an  interview 
printed  in  the  Akron  Beacon- Journal  of  February  i,  1898, 
that  during  his  visit  to  Akron,  on  his  way  West  in  August, 
Brown  held  open  meetings  in  one  of  the  public  halls  of  the 
village.  Because  of  their  interest  in  the  Kansas  crisis,  and 
in  the  Browns,  their  former  neighbors,  the  people  were  quickly 
roused  by  Brown's  graphic  words,  and  liberally  contributed 
arms  of  all  sorts,  ammunition  and  clothing.  Committees  of 
aid  were  appointed,  and  Lane  was  deputed  to  accompany 
Brown  in  a  canvass  of  the  village  shops  and  offices  for  contri- 
butions. Several  cases  of  guns  belonging  to  the  State  of  Ohio, 
then  being  collected  from  the  disbanded  militia  companies 
of  Akron  and  Tallmadge,  were  "spirited  away"  to  the  same 
end.  General  Lucius  V.  Bierce  later  testified  to  his  own  gift 
of  broadswords,  the  property  of  a  defunct  filibustering  com- 
pany. On  the  15th  of  August,  Brown  reported  to  those  remain- 
ing at  North  Elba  that  he  was  leaving  Cleveland  via  Hudson, 
and  would  have  been  off  before  had  he  not  met  with  such  suc- 
cess in  obtaining  "Guns  Revolvers,  Swords,  Powder,  Caps, 
&  money, "  that  he  thought  it  best  to  "detain  a  day  or  Two 


86  JOHN  BROWN 

longer  on  that  account."  He  had  raised  nearly  two  hundred 
dollars  in  that  way  in  the  two  previous  days,  principally 
in  arms  and  ammunition."  But  the  harvest  being  gathered, 
he  and  his  son-in-law,  Henry  Thompson,  arrived  in  Chicago 
August  l8,  after  stopping  at  Cleveland  and  Detroit,  where  they 
met  Oliver  Brown  and  at  once  prepared  for  the  overland  jour- 
ney by  buying  a  "nice  young  horse  for  which  we  paid  here 
$120,  but  have  so  much  load  that  we  shall  have  to  walk  a  good 
deal;  enough  probably,  to  give  opportunity  to  supply  our- 
selves with  game.  We  have  provided  the  most  of  what  we  need 
on  our  outward  march  "  —  so  Brown  wrote  to  his  "  Dear  Wife 
and  Children;  every  one"  on  August  23,  the  day  of  leaving 
Chicago,  with  solemn  injunctions  to  write  often  and  to  direct 
the  letters  to  Oliver,  since  Oliver's  name  was  "not  so  common 
as  either  Henry's  or  mine.""^  The  heavily  loaded  one-horse 
wagon  was  in  obedience  to  advice  from  John  Brown,  Jr.,  who 
opined  that  his  father  would  find  it  just  what  he  wanted  in 
Kansas  to  carry  on  the  business  of  surveying.  Moreover,  this 
method  of  reaching  Osawatomie  was,  if  the  slowest,  the  best 
and  cheapest  way  of  travelling,  particularly  because  the 
navigation  of  the  Missouri  River  was,  as  the  son  put  it,  "a 
horrid  business  in  a  low  stage  of  water  which  is  a  considerable 
portion  of  the  year.''^^ 

Not  that  roughing  it  could  discourage  John  Brown,  as  we 
know.  There  was  found,  after  his  capture  in  Virginia,  in  his 
papers,  the  beginnings  of  an  autobiographical  volume  en- 
titled: '  A  brief  history  of  John  Brown,  otherwise  (old  B)  and 
his  family:  as  connected  With  Kansas;  By  one  who  knows.'  " 
This  was  composed  early  in  August,  1858,  for  on  the  9th 
of  that  month  he  wrote  to  his  son  John  from  Moneka,  Kansas, 
asking  that  certain  letters  and  other  material  be  sent  him 
for  this  book,  which,  had  it  been  completed,  would  have  been 
sold  for  "  the  benefit  of  the  whole  of  my  family,  or  to  promote 
the  cause  of  Freedom  as  may  hereafter  appear  best  for  both 
objects."  *  1*  In  this  all  too  brief  fragment,  written  in  the  third 
person,  appears  the  story  of  his  trip  to  Kansas,  including 

*  "I  am  certain,"  he  added,  "from  the  manner  in  which  I  have  been  pressed 
to  narrate,  and  the  greedy  swallowing  everywhere  of  what  I  have  told,  and  com- 
plaints in  the  newspapers  voluntarily  made  of  my  backwardness  to  gratify  the 
public,  that  the  book  would  find  a  ready  sale." 


IN  THE  WAKE  OF  THE  WAR  CLOUD         87 

fresh  assurance  from  his  own  pen  that  "with  the  exposures, 
privations,  hardships,  and  wants,  of  pioneer  Hfe  he  was 
familiar;  &  thought  he  could  benefit  his  Children  and  the 
new  beginners  from  the  older  parts 'of  the  country  and  help 
them  to  shift." 

The  nice,  stout  young  horse  had  all  he  could  do,  so  Brown 
records,  to  drag  the  load  when  he  and  his  son  and  son-in-law 
left  Chicago  behind  them.  Hence,  continues  his  own  narra- 
tive, just  cited: 

"Their  progress  was  extremely  slow;  &  just  before  getting  into 
Missouri  their  horse  got  the  distemper:  after  which  for  most  of 
the  journey  they  could  only  gain  some  Six  to  Eight  miles  in  a  day. 
This  however  gave  them  great  opportunity  for  seeing  &  hearing 
in  Missouri.  Companies  of  armed  men,  and  individuals  were  con- 
stantly passing  and  repassing  Kansaswise  continually  boasting  of 
what  deeds  of  patriotism ;  &  chivalry  they  had  performed  in  Kansas ; 
&  of  the  still  more  mighty  deeds  they  were  yet  to  do.  No  man  of 
them  would  blush  when  telling  of  their  cruel  treading  down  &  ter- 
rifying of  defenceless  Free  State  men ;  they  seemed  to  take  peculiar 
satisfaction  in  telling  of  the  fine  horses,  &  mules  they  had  many 
of  them  killed  in  their  numerous  expeditions  against  the  d — d 
Abolitionists.  The  coarse,  vulgar,  profane,  jests,  &  the  bloodthirsty 
brutual  feelings  to  which  they  were  giving  vent  continually  would 
have  been  a  most  exquisite  treat  to  Ears ;  and  their  general  appear- 
ance to  the  Eys  of  the  past  and  the  present  Administration.  Of 
this  there  cannot  be  the  slightest  doubt  or  of  the  similiarly  refined 
feeling  amongst  their  truly  Democratic  supporters  and  the  dough 
faces.    Witness  the  rewards  of  such  men  as  Clark  and  others. 

"  On  the  way  at  Waverly  Missouri  he  took  up  the  body  of  his  little 
grandson  who  had  died  of  cholera  .  .  .  thinking  it  would  afford 
some  relief  to  the  broken  hearted  Father  and  Mother  they  having 
been  obliged  to  leave  him  amidst  the  ruffian-like  people  by  whom 
(for  the  most  part)  they  were  themselves  so  inhumanly  treated  in 
their  distress.  The  parents  were  almost  frenzied  with  joy  on  being 
told  that  the  body  of  their  dear  child  was  again  with  them.  On  his 
arrival  at  the  place  where  his  sons  had  located  he  found  all  the  com- 
pany completely  prostrate  with  sickness  (Chill  fever,  and  Fever 
and  Ague)  except  the  wife  of  John  Jr  and  her  little  boy  of  some  three 
years  old.  The  strongest  of  all  the  five  men  scarcely  able  to  bring 
in  their  Cows,  cut  their  fuel,  bring  the  water,  and  grind  the  little 
corn  which  with  a  little  dried  fruit  they  had  left ;  a  very  few  Potatoes 
they  had  raised  and  a  small  supply  of  milk.  ..." 

One  picturesque  and  characteristic  incident  of  the  crossing 
of  the  enemy's  territory  John  Brown  himself  did  not  record, 


88  JOHN  BROWN 

since  fate  intervened  here  and  prevented  the  addition  of 
another  word  to  what  was  to  have  been  his  first  venture 
into  literature.  His  son-in-law,  Henry  Thompson,  relates  that 
when  they  reached  the  Missouri  River  at  Brunswick,  Missouri, 
they  set  themselves  down  to  await  the  ferry.  There  came  to 
them  an  old  man,  frankly  Missourian,  frankly  inquisitive  after 
the  manner  of  the  frontier.  "Where,"  said  he,  "are  you  go- 
ing?" "To  Kansas,"  replied  John  Brown.  "Where  from?" 
asked  the  old  man.  ' '  From  New  York, ' '  answered  John  Brown. 
"You  won't  live  to  get  there."  "We  are  prepared,"  said  John 
Brown,  ''not  to  die  alone."  Before  that  spirit  and  that  eagle 
eye,  the  old  man  quailed;  he  turned  and  left." 

It  was  on  October  6  that  the  advance  guard  of  the  car- 
avan reached  the  family  settlement  at  Osawatomie.  Brown 
himself,  being  very  tired,  did  not  cover  the  last  mile  or  two 
until  the  next  day.  They  arrived  in  an  all  but  destitute  con- 
dition, with  but  sixty  cents  between  them,  to  find  the  little 
family  settlement  in  great  distress,  not  only  because  of  the 
sickness  already  noted,  but  because  of  the  absence  of  any 
shelter  save  tents.  The  bitterly  cold  and  cutting  winds,  which 
did  much  to  disillusionize  so  many  of  the  emigrants,  kept 
the  Browns  shivering  over  their  little  fires,  and  the  exposure 
added  to  their  ill-health.  The  crops  that  had  been  raised  were 
not  cared  for;  there  was  no  meat,  little  sugar,  and  nothing 
to  make  bread  with,  save  corn  ground  by  great  labor  in  a 
hand  mill  two  miles  off.^"  The  men,  enfeebled  by  the  chills 
and  ague  which  racked,  sooner  or  later,  all  the  new  arrivals 
in  Kansas,  had  lost  their  initiative  and  vigor,  and  needed  the 
resolute  sternness  of  the  head  of  the  family  to  stimulate  them 
to  new  efforts.  By  postponing  the  building  of  cabins,  they 
had  been  able  to  devote  themselves  to  the  crops;  and  the 
abundance  of  excellent  corn,  potatoes,  pumpkins,  squashes, 
melons,  beans,  etc.,  which  had  earlier  constituted  their  fare, 
compensated  them  for  most  of  the  inconveniences  they  had 
been  compelled  to  put  up  with,  so  wrote  Mrs.  John  Brown,  Jr., 
to  her  mother-in-law  at  North  Elba." 

But  the  time  had  more  than  arrived  when  they  should 
devote  themselves  to  home-building.  On  October  25  there 
was  the  "hardest  freezing"  John  Brown  had  ever  witnessed 
south  of  North  Elba  at  that  season  of  the  year,  as  he  reported 


IN  THE  WAKE  OF  THE  WAR  CLOUD         89 

to  his  wife,  in  o'.  ler  that  she  should  know,  "in  that  misera- 
ble Frosty  region  '  of  North  Elba,  that  "those  here  are  not 
altogether  in  Paradise."  "  Indeed,  nobody  in  Kansas  that 
unusually  cold  winter  of  1855-56  knew  what  comforts  were. 
Had  there  been  no  political  anxieties  to  vex  them,  the  frightful 
hardships  of  pioneering  and  the  acclimating  sicknesses  would 
have  made  that  period  truly  dreadful  to  look  back  upon. 
While  the  Browns  paid  the  penalty  for  living  on  low  ground 
in  a  ravine  and  in  tents,  that  first  summer,  their  bitter  experi- 
ence was  yet  vastly  better  than  that  of  many  another  family. 
Starvation  and  death  looked  in  at  many  a  door  where  parents 
lay  helpless,  while  famished  children  crawled  the  unbearded 
floors  crying  for  food,  shrieking  with  fear  if  any  footstep 
approached,  lest  the  comer  be  a  Border  Ruffian  instead  of  a 
friend.  For  pure  misery  and  heart-breaking  suffering,  these 
pioneer  tales  of  Kansas  in  1855-58  are  not  surpassed  by  any 
in  the  whole  history  of  the  winning  of  the  West.* 

By  November  2,  Jason's  and  John's  "shanties"  were  well 
advanced;  by  the  23d,  their  father  reported  these  two  fam- 
ilies so  well  sheltered  that  they  would  not  suffer  any  more, 
and  that  he  had  made  some  progress  in  preparing  another 
house,  in  the  face  of  icy  rains  and  freezing  nights.  "Still," 
wrote  the  indomitable  directing  spirit,  "God  has  not  'for- 
saken us ; '  &  we  get  '  day  by  day  our  dayly  Bread ; '  &  I  wish 
we  had  a  great  deal  more  gratitude  to  mingle  with  our  unde- 
served blessings."  ^'  One  dread  that  had  worried  them  prior 
to  their  departure  from  home  proved  unnecessary.  "You 
recollect  we  used  to  talk  a  great  deal  about  the  Indians," 
wrote  Mrs.  John  Brown,  Jr.,  "and  how  much  I  feared  them 
—  they  are  the  least  of  my  troubles  —  there  is  scarcely  a  day 
but  they  go  along  in  sight  of  us  in  droves  of  from  30  to  40, 
sometimes  more  and  sometimes  less,  and  frequently  four  or 
five  of  them  will  come  galloping  up  to  see  us;  they  have  always 
treated  us  perfectly  civil  and  I  believe  if  we  treat  them  the 

*  See,  for  instance,  Mrs.  M.  D.  Colt,  Went  to  Kansas,  Watertown,  New  York, 
1862;  Mrs.  SaraT.  L.  Robinson's  Kansas,  its  Interior  and  Exterior  Life,  Bos- 
ton, 1858;  Thaddeus  Hyatt's  MS.  Journal  of  Investigations  in  Kansas,  1856-57, 
Kansas  Historical  Society;  Six  Months  in  Kansas,  by  a  Lady  (Hannah  Anderson 
Ropes),  Boston,  1856;  '  Memoir  of  Samuel  Walker,'  in  Kansas  Historical  Society 
Collections,  vol.  6,  pp.  249-274;  Three  Years  on  the  Kansas  Border,  by  a  Clergy- 
man of  the  Episcopal  Church,  New  York,  1856. 


90  JOHN   BROWN 

same  they  will  do  us  no  harm."  ^^  Her  prophrcy  was  a  correct 
one.  It  was  not  the  red  but  the  white  men  r  the  border  they 
had  to  fear.  Terrified  as  they  were  wheo.  the  first  big  band 
of  Sacs  and  Foxes  in  war-paint  surrounded  their  tents,  whoop- 
ing and  yelling,  the  Browns  had  the  good  sense  to  ground  their 
arms,  and  the  Indians  did  likewise.  Thereafter  both  sides  were 
great  friends.  John,  Jr.,  went  often  to  visit  their  old  chief; 
once,  when,  in  the  following  summer,  the  Indians  came  to  call 
in  numbers,  they  were  "fought"  with  gifts  of  melons  and 
green  corn.  ' '  That, ' '  says  Jason  Brown,  ' '  was  the  nicest  party 
I  ever  saw." 

John  Brown,  Jr.,  used  to  ask  the  old  chief  questions,  as: 
"Why  do  you  Sacs  and  Foxes  not  build  houses  and  barns  like 
the  Ottawas  and  Chippewas?  Why  do  you  not  have  schools 
and  churches  like  the  Delawares  and  Shawnees?  Why  do  you 
have  no  preachers  and  teachers?"  And  the  chief  replied  in  a 
staccato  which  summed  up  wonderfully  the  bitter,  century- 
long  frontier  experience  of  his  people:  "We  want  no  houses 
and  barns.  We  want  no  schools  and  churches;  We  want  no 
preachers  and  teachers.   We  bad  enough  now."  "^ 

The  men  really  to  be  feared  were  not  long  in  putting  in 
appearance.  A  few  days  after  the  arrival  of  the  Brown  ad- 
vance guard  in  April,  six  or  eight  heavily  armed  Missourians 
rode  up  and  inquired  if  any  stray  cattle  had  been  seen  in  that 
neighborhood.  On  receiving  a  prompt  negative,  in  the  ver- 
nacular of  the  border  they  inquired  how  the  newcomers  were 
"on  the  goose."  "We  are  Free  State,"  was  the  answer,  "and 
more  than  that,  we  are  Abolitionists."  The  visitors  rode  away 
at  once  and,  says  Jason  Brown,  "from  that  moment  we  were 
marked  for  destruction.  Before  we  had  been  in  the  Territory 
a  month,  we  found  we  had  to  go  armed  and  to  be  prepared 
to  defend  our  lives."  The  leader  of  that  band  of  Missourians 
might  not  have  been  allowed  to  ride  away,  had  the  outspoken 
Northerners  before  them  realized  the  sinister  part  the  Rev. 
Martin  White  was  to  play  in  their  lives,  —  if  they  could  have 
dreamed  that  he  was  to  shoot  down  one  of  their  number  in 
cold  blood  within  a  twelvemonth.^' 

It  must  be  said,  however,  that  the  Browns  were  aggressive 
from  the  beginning.  They  not  only  nailed  their  colors  to  the 
mast  and  let  all  who  would  behold  them,  but  they  gave  play 


IN  THE  WAKE  OF  THE  WAR  CLOUD         91 

to  those  feelings  which,  as  Salmon  reported,  had  been  so  well 
worked  up  in  crossing  Missouri.  John  Brown,  Jr.,  Jason, 
Frederick  and  Owen  eagerly  attended  Free  State  settlers' 
meetings,"  and  the  first-named  figured  soon  in  the  political 
history  of  the  Territory.  On  the  afternoon  of  Monday,  June 
25,  1855,  he  was  elected  a  vice-president  of  the  Free  State 
convention  which,  then  in  session  at  Lawrence,  solemnly 
urged  all  the  people  of  Kansas  to  throw  away  their  differences 
and  make  the  freedom  of  Kansas  the  sole  issue.  Its  mem- 
bers called  upon  Free  State  representatives  to  resign  from 
the  bogus  Shawnee  Legislature  chosen  by  Missouri  votes, 
declared  that  the  convention  did  not  feel  that  its  members 
should  obey  any  laws  of  the  Legislature's  exacting,  and  finally 
resolved,  with  a  spirit  that  must  have  gratified  every  Brown, 
"That  in  reply  to  the  threats  of  war  so  frequently  made  in  our 
neighbor  state,  our  answer  is,  'WE  ARE  READY.'  "  ^^  Natu- 
rally, John  Brown,  Jr.'s  participation  in  this  expression  of 
feeling  —  he  was  a  member  of  the  committee  on  resolutions 
—  did  not  improve  his  standing  with  his  Southern  neighbors, 
of  whom  a  good  many  were  soon  to  be  free  with  their  threats 
and  boasts  that  they  would  drive  off  every  Yankee.^"  But 
this  did  not  deter  him  in  the  least  from  attending  the  radical 
Lawrence  gathering  of  August  15,  in  which,  according  to  the 
Herald  of  Freedom,  he  was  a  member  of  the  steering,  or  busi- 
ness committee,  nor  from  becoming  a  member  of  the  first 
Territorial  Executive  Committee,  an  outgrowth  of  the  Big 
Springs  convention  of  September  5.'" 

When  the  fraudulent  Pawnee  Legislature  convened,  July 
2,  1855,  it  enacted,  true  to  its  lawless  inception,  a  code  of 
punishments  for  Free  State  men  that  must  always  rank  as 
one  of  the  foremost  monuments  of  legislative  tyranny  and 
malevolence  in  the  history  of  this  country.  Under  that  code 
no  one  conscientiously  opposed  to  slavery,  or  who  failed  to 
admit  the  right  of  everybody  to  hold  slaves,  could  serve  as  a 
juror;  and  the  right  to  hold  office  was  restricted  to  pro-slavery 
men.  Five  years  at  hard  labor  was  to  be  the  fate  of  any  one 
introducing  literature  calculated  to  make  a  slave  disorderly 
or  dangerous  or  disaffected.  Death  itself  was  the  penalty  for 
raising  a  rebellion  among  slaves  or  supplying  them  with 
literature  which  advised  them  to  rise  or  conspire  against  any 


92  JOHN  BROWN 

citizen.  The  mere  voicing  of  a  belief  that  slavery  was  illegal 
in  Kansas  was  made  a  grave  crime,  in  the  following  words: 

"Sec.  12:  If  any  free  person,  by  speaking  or  writing,  assert  or  main- 
tain that  persons  have  not  the  right  to  hold  slaves  in  this  Territory, 
print,  publish,  write,  circulate,  or  cause  to  be  introduced  into  the 
Territory,  any  book,  paper,  magazine,  pamphlet  or  circular,  con- 
taining any  denial  of  the  right  of  persons  to  hold  slaves  in  this 
Territory,  such  persons  shall  be  deemed  guilty  of  felony,  and  pun- 
ished by  imprisonment  at  hard  labor  for  a  term  of  not  less  than 
five  years."  '' 

This  clause  was  obviously  aimed  at  the  New  York  Tribune 
and  other  anti-slavery  journals,  and  was  meant  to  be  an 
effective  padlock  upon  free  speech.  General  J.  H.  String- 
fellow,  a  resident  of  Atchison  and  the  Speaker  of  the  House 
that  passed  this  gag-law,  bgasted  that  it  and  other  legislation 
"will  be  enforced  to  the  very  letter."  '^  This  challenge  John 
Brown,  Jr.,  promptly  accepted.  The  code  from  which  we 
have  quoted  became  operative  on  September  15,  1855.  What 
he  did  on  that  day,  John  Brown,  Jr.,  recorded  on  the  next  in 
a  letter  to  his  mother: 

"Yesterday  I  told  a  man  who  I  since  learn  has  a  slave  here  that 
no  man  had  a  right  to  hold  a  slave  in  Kansas,  that  I  called  on  him 
to  witness  that  I  had  broken  this  law  and  that  I  still  intended  to 
do  so  at  all  times  and  at  all  places,  and  further  that  if  any  officer 
should  attempt  to  arrest  me  for  a  violation  of  this  law  and  should 
put  his  vilainous  hands  on  me,  I  would  surely  kill  him  so  help  me 
God.  He  made  no  reply  but  rode  off.  —  Nothing  is  now  wanting 
but  an  attempt  to  enforce  this  Law  with  others  of  like  import,  which 
Gov.  Shannon  has  declared  he  will  do,  and  we  shall  have  war  here 
to  the  knife."  ^' 

"Perhaps,"  wrote  Mrs.  John  Brown,  Jr.,  to  her  brother-in- 
law,  Watson,  then  at  North  Elba,  "we  shall  all  get  shot  for 
disobeying  their  beautiful  laws,  but  you  might  as  well  die  here 
in  a  good  cause  as  freeze  to  death  there."  '*  The  belligerent 
attitude  of  the  men  of  her  party  might  well  have  given  her 
anxiety.  It  was  as  if  they  had  intended  from  the  first  to  make 
Osawatomie  the  storm  centre  of  southeastern  Kansas,  and 
to  bring  down  upon  them  the  special  attentions  of  the  most 
radical  men  on  the  other  side  of  the  border,  men  of  the  type 
of  General  Stringfellow,  a  brother  of  B.  F.  Stringfellow,  who 


IN  THE  WAKE  OF  THE  WAR  CLOUD        93 

declared  on  August  28,  1855,  in  his  newspaper,  the  Squatter 
Sovereign,  published  at  Atchison,  Kansas,  on  the  Missouri  Hne: 

"We  can  tell  the  impertinent  scoundrels  of  the  [New  York]  Tribune 
that  they  may  exhaust  an  ocean  of  ink,  their  Emigrant  Aid  Societies 
spend  their  millions  and  billions,  their  representatives  in  Congress 
spout  their  heretical  theories  till  doomsday,  and  his  excellency 
Franklin  Pierce  appoint  abolitionist  after  free-soiler  as  governor, 
yet  we  will  continue  to  tar  and  feather,  drown,  lynch  and  hang 
every  white-livered  abolitionist  who  dares  to  pollute  our  soil."^^ 

With  those  and  other  threats  ringing  in  their  ears,  the  sons 
of  John  Brown  unloaded  the  arms  donated  by  friends  of  free 
Kansas  in  the  East  and  hauled  by  that  stout  young  horse 
across  Illinois  and  Missouri,  while  John  Brown  himself  sur- 
veyed the  settlement  of  Osawatomie,  whose  name  was  hence- 
forth to  be  linked  with  his  and  thus  obtain  an  imperishable 
place  in  American  history,  although  his  own  stay  in  the  simple 
frontier  settlement  was  to  be  brief  indeed,  —  not  eleven 
months  in  all. 

To  Kansas  John  Brown  came  with  no  thought  of  settling. 
Surveying  was  to  give  him  a  livelihood  while  he  remained, 
but  he  came  to  fight,  prepared  to  battle  along  that  Kansas- 
Missouri  line  for  two  or  three  years,  by  which  time  he  felt 
the  victory  should  be  won,  and  he  be  free  to  assail  slavery  at 
another  point.'*  The  Kansas  country  delighted  him.  Indeed, 
he  told  his  children  that,  if  a  younger  man,  he  would  certainly 
stay  with  them,  but  that  so  long  as  he  had  a  good  farm  at 
North  Elba,  he  felt  that  by  common  industry  he  could  main- 
tain his  wife  and  daughters  there  while  his  sons  settled  where 
fancy  led  them."  He  went  so  far,  on  his  arrival,  as  to  think 
of  taking  a  claim  near  his  sons'  settlement,  but  the  battles 
and  tragedies  of  the  immediate  future  prevented  his  consider- 
ing the  matter  further. '»  In  March,  1859,  he  wrote  to  John 
Teesdale  that  "it  has  been  my  deliberate  judgment  since  1855 
that  the  most  ready  and  effectual  way  to  retrieve  Kansas 
would  be  to  meddle  directly  with  the  peculiar  institution." 
He  arrived  ready  to  grapple  with  it,  to  meet  violence  with 
violence,  to  do  to  the  Border  Ruffians  what  they  were  doing 
to  Free  Soilers.  To  accomplish  this,  he  was  ready  to  take  from 
the  pro-slavery  men  their  chattels,  whether  living  or  immo- 
bile, and  even  their  lives. 


94  JOHN  BROWN 

Until  well  into  the  spring  of  1855  the  drift  of  affairs  in 
Kansas  had  been  wholly  against  the  Free  Soilers,  despite  the 
emigration  from  New  England. ^^  Bona  fide  Missouri  settlers 
were  naturally  first  in  the  field,  by  reason  of  their  proximity 
to  the  newly  opened  lands,  and  were  quicker  in  organizing, 
under  the  leadership  of  Atchison  and  of  the  Stringfellow 
brothers  and  their  allies.  They  were  on  hand  at  the  first  elec- 
tion held  in  the  Territory,  November  29,  1854,  for  a_ delegate 
to  Congress,  and  to  their  aid  came  hundreds  of  residents  of 
Missouri,  on  horseback  and  in  wagons,  with  guns,  bowie- 
knives,  revolvers  and  plenty  of  whiskey.  Encamping  near  the 
polling  places,"  on  election  day,  these  visitors  cast  1729  fraud- 
ulent votes"  to  the  satisfaction  of  their  leaders,  thus  electing 
the  pro-slavery  candidate.  General  J.  W.  Whitfield.  Atchi- 
son, on  November  6,  had  pointed  out  in  a  speech  at  Weston, 
Missouri,  how  easily  the  trick  could  be  turned:  "When  you 
reside  in  one  day's  journey  of  the  Territory,  and  when  your 
peace,  your  quiet  and  your  property  depend  upon  your  action, 
you  can  without  an  exertion  send  five  hundred  of  your  young 
men  who  will  vote  in  favor  of  your  institutions.  Should  each 
county  in  the  State  of  Missouri  only  do  its  duty,  the  question 
will  be  decided  quietly  and  peaceably  at  the  ballot-box.  If  we 
are  defeated,  then  Missouri  and  the  other  Southern  States 
will  have  shown  themselves  recreant  to  their  interests  and 
will  deserve  their  fate.""  As  it  happened,  "some  of  the  lead- 
ing men  of  Missouri,  comprising  merchants,  doctors  and  law- 
yers, were  recognized  among  the  ballot-box  stuffers."  Judges, 
too,  were  there,  and  the  city  attorney  of  St.  Joseph.  There 
was  nothing  concealed  about  the  transaction.  The  coming 
of  the  Missourians  was  foretold  by  Free  Soil  correspond- 
ents.^^ When  the  visitors  had  closed  the  polls,  they  gayly 
shouted,  "All  aboard  for  Kansas  City  and  Westport,"  and 
drove  or  rode  away.**  In  one  district,  the  seventh,  seventy- 
five  miles  from  the  Missouri  line,  —  which  had  "three  months 
afterward  only  53  voters  according  to  the  official  census,  — 
there  were  cast  604  votes.  The  Howard  Committee*  reported 
that  fully  584  of  these  were  illegal.*^ 

*  Authorized  by  the  House  of  Representatives,  March  19,  1856,  to  investigate 
the  Kansas  situation.  It  consisted  of  William  A.  Howard,  of  Michigan,  John 
Sherman,  of  Ohio,  and  Mordecai  Oliver,  of  Missouri. 


IN  THE  WAKE  OF  THE  WAR  CLOUD         95 

This  invasion,  curiously  enough,  was  quite  unnecessary 
to  carry  the  day  for  Missouri,  for  the  Free  Soilers  were  then 
in  a  numerical  minority  to  the  bona  fide  Missouri  settlers,  as 
also  when  the  official  census  was  taken  three  months  later, 
in  February,  1855. ^«  Indeed,  for  fully  eight  months  after  the 
opening  of  the  Territory  on  July  i,  1854,  the  Missourians 
bade  fair  to  overrun  Kansas.  Moreover,  at  the  time  of  the 
election,  the  Free  Soilers  were  divided  in  their  counsels,  with- 
out recognized  leaders  or  a  definite  policy,  and  took  little  inter- 
est in  the  voting,  not  one- half  of  them  going  to  the  polls.*'  But 
the  appetite  for  illegal  interference  in  a  sister  State  grew  with 
its  indulgence.  The  victory  of  November  29  was  proclaimed 
as  a  great  and  lasting  triumph  for  the  slavery  forces.  The 
Kansas  Herald  of  Leavenworth  announced  that  "  the  triumph 
of  the  pro-slavery  party  is  complete  and  overwhelming,  .  .  . 
Kansas  is  saved,"**  and  its  jubilation  was  echoed  throughout 
Missouri.  The  St.  Louis  Pilot  rejoiced  "at  this  decisive  result, 
—  as  well  on  account  of  the  success  of  General  Whitfield, 
as  that  it  will  tend  to  quiet  the  fear  and  anxiety  pervading 
the  Western  frontier,  that  this  State  would  be  flanked  on  the 
west  with  an  unprincipled  set  of  fanatics  and  negro-thieves, 
imported  expressly  to  create  annoyance,  and  disturb  the  social 
relations  of  the  people  of  the  frontier  counties."  *^  The  friends 
of  liberty  in  the  East  were  correspondingly  depressed.  "We 
believe  that  there  are  at  this  hour  four  chances  that  Kansas 
will  be  a  Slave  State  to  one  that  she  will  be  Free,"  wrote  Hor- 
ace Greeley  in  the  Tribune  of  December  7.  In  Washington  it 
was  generally  thought  that  the  South  had  possessed  itself  of 
Kansas,*"  even  though  the  February,  1855,  census  showed  that 
only  192  slaves  had  been  taken  into  the  Territory,  in  which 
there  were  also  151  free  negroes.  "Some  of  the  Southern  men 
coolly  say  they  have  taken  Kansas  so  easily  that  they  think 
it  may  be  worth  while  to  take  Nebraska  also,"  reported 
Greeley's  Washington  correspondent  on  February  13,  1855. 

Naturally,  in  the  East  the  November  invasion  was  used  lay 
the  Tribune  and  other  backers  of  the  Emigrant  Aid  Societies 
to  stimulate  recruiting  for  the  Kansas  holy  war."  On  the 
other  hand,  the  arrival  of  bands  of  New  Englanders  sent  out 
by  the  Emigrant  Aid  Societies,  the  first  of  which  reached  Law- 
rence August  I,  1854,"  had  intensely  inflamed  the  Missouri- 


96  JOHN  BROWN 

ans,  and  continued  to  do  so  for  the  next  two  years.  "Shall 
we  allow  such  cut-throats  and  murderers,  as  the  people  of 
Massachusetts  are,  to  settle  in  the  territory  adjoining  our  own 
state?"  asked  the  Liberty  Platform,  a  Missouri  border  news- 
paper, in  June,  1854;  and  it  answered  its  own  question  thus: 
"No!  If  popular  opinion  will  not  keep  them  back,  we  should 
see  what  virtue  there  is  in  the  force  of  arms.""_  In  August, 
on  hearing  of  the  arrival  of  the  first  Emigrant  Aid  party,  the 
Platte  County  Argus  declared  that:  "It  is  now  time  to  sound 
the  alarm.  We  know  we  speak  the  sentiments  of  some  of  the 
most  distinguished  statesmen  of  Missouri  when  we  advise  that 
counter-organizations  be  made  both  in  Kansas  and  Missouri 
to  thwart  the  reckless  course  of  the  Abolitionists.  We  must 
meet  them  at  their  own  threshold  and  scourge  them  back 
to  their  covers  of  darkness.  They  have  made  the  issue,  and 
it  is  for  us  to  meet  and  repel  them."  ^*  To  the  Missourians 
in  1854  and  later,  their  fellow  countrymen  from  the  historic 
Bay  State  appeared  the  scum  of  Northern  cities,  hired  to  vote, 
and  not  intending  to  settle  Kansas  in  a  normal  way;  "the 
lowest  class  of  rowdies;"  "the  most  unmitigated  looking  set 
of  blackguards;"  "hellish  emigrants  and  paupers  whose 
bellies  are  filled  with  beggars'  food;"  men  of  "black  and 
poisonous  hearts,"  ^^  —  thus  had  one  section  of  Americans 
been  set  against  their  brothers  by  the  divine  institution  of 
slavery.  "Riff-raflf,"  "scoundrels"  and  "criminals"  were 
mild  adjectives  applied  to  Eastern  settlers,  in  whose  eyes  the 
Border  Ruffians  were  an  equally  low  and  degraded  set  of 
beings,  drunken  bandits  "armed  to  the  teeth"  and  revelling 
in  cruelty,  —  in  brief,  fiends  incarnate.  "Rough,  coarse, 
sneering,  swaggering,  dare-devil  looking  rascals  as  ever  swung 
upon  a  gallows,"  was  the  way  Dr.  J.  V.  S.  Smith,  of  Boston, 
characterized  them.'^ 

"Reader,"  asked  William  A.  Phillips,  the  Kansas  corre- 
spondent of  the  Tribune,  "did  you  ever  see  a  Border  Ruffian? 
.  .  .  Imagine  a  fellow,  tall,  slim,  but  athletic,  with  yellow 
complexion,  hairy-faced,  with  a  dirty  flannel  shirt,  or  red 
or  blue,  or  green,  a  pair  of  common-place,  but  dark-colored 
pants,  tucked  into  an  uncertain  altitude  by  a  leather  belt,  in 
which  a  dirty-handled  bowie-knife  is  stuck  rather  ostenta- 
tiously, an  eye  slightly  whiskey-red,  and  teeth  the  color  of  a 


IN  THE  WAKE  OF  THE  WAR  CLOUD         97 

walnut.  Such  is  your  Border  Ruffian  of  the  lowest  type." 
"In  a  representation,"  he  added,  "of  the  'Forty  Thieves,' 
they  would  have  been  invaluable,  with  their  grim  visages, 
their  tipsy  expression,  and,  above  all,  their  oaths  and  unap- 
proachable swagger."  "  To  Thomas  H.  Gladstone,  a  relative 
of  the  great  statesman  of  that  name,  the  Border  Ruffians 
seemed  to  be  "wearing  the  most  savage  looks  and  giving 
utterance  to  the  most  horrible  imprecations  and  blasphemies. 
.  .  .  Looking  around  at  these  groups  of  drunken,  bellowing, 
blood-thirsty  demons,  who  crowded  around  the  bar  of  the 
house  shouting  for  drink,  or  vented  their  furious  noise  on  the 
levee  without,  I  felt  that  all  my  former  experiences  of  border 
men  and  Missourians  bore  faint  comparison  with  the  spec- 
tacle presented  by  the  wretched  crew,  who  appeared  only  the 
more  terrifying  from  the  darkness  of  the  surrounding  night."  " 
This  of  the  men  he  met  in  Kansas  City  after  they  returned 
from  the  sacking  of  Lawrence  in  1856.  The  earlier  invaders 
of  Kansas  Mrs.  Charles  Robinson  described  as  "rough,  bru- 
tal-looking men,  of  most  nondescript  appearance ; "  "bands  of 
whiskey-drinking,  degraded,  foul-mouthed  marauders."" 

Undoubtedly  their  ranks  did  include  the  scum  of  the  bor- 
der; that  was  inevitable.  But,  aside  from  their  desire  to  foster 
slavery  in  Kansas,  they  had  been  easily  convinced  by  their 
leaders  that  the  coming  by  droves  of  New  England  Yankees 
actually  menaced  their  homes,  their  wives  and  children,  their 
property,  human  or  otherwise.  As  soon  as  Kansas  was  sub- 
merged by  the  incoming  tide  of  Abolition,  the  anti-slavery 
attack  was  to  be  directed  against  Missouri  and  Texas,  and 
then  the  fall  of  slavery  would  be  certain.  Senator  Atchison, 
in  his  speech  at  Weston  which  has  already  been  cited,  de- 
clared that  "if  we  cannot  do  this  [take  Kansas],  it  is  an  omen 
that  the  institution  of  Slavery  is  to  fail  in  this  and  the  other 
Southern  States."  As  late  as  July,  1856,  the  Charleston,  S.  C, 
Courier  affirmed  that:  "Now,  upon  the  proposition  that  the 
safety  of  the  institution  of  Slavery  in  South  Carolina  is  de- 
pendent upon  its  establishment  in  Kansas,  there  can  be  no 
rational  doubt."  "The  touchstone  of  our  political  existence 
is  Kansas — that  is  the  question,"  wrote  the  Washington  cor- 
respondent of  the  Charleston  Mercury,  January  5,  1856,  six 
months  earlier.""   For  what  other  purpose  could  the  Yankees 


98  JOHN  BROWN 

be  carrying  arms,  was  asked  after  the  election  in  1855,  when 
Charles  Robinson  succeeded,  through  his  agent,  George  W. 
Deitzler,  in  obtaining  Sharp's  rifles  from  the  officers  of  the 
Emigrant  Aid  Society  in  Boston,  they  being  shipped  to  him 
labelled  ' '  Revised  Statutes  "  and  "  Books. "  " 

Elated  as  they  were  by  their  triumph  at  the  polls  in  the  first 
election,  the  Missourians  were  disposed  to  take  no  chances  of 
defeat  when  the  second  one  took  place.   This  was  called  by 
the  first  Territorial  Governor,  Andrew  H.  Reeder,  for  March 
30,  1855,°^  and  in  preparing  for  it  the  Missouri  pro-slavery 
men  displayed   that  talent   for  rapid  military  organization 
which  was  so  evident  in  the  South  in  1 861.  Since  this  elec- 
tion was  for  the  choice  of  the  first  Territorial  Legislature,  its 
importance  was  far  greater  than  the  mere  selection  of  a  dele- 
gate to  Congress.  Both  sides  felt  that  whoever  chose  the  Legis- 
lature settled  the  destiny  both  of  the  Territory  and  of  the 
future  State  of  Kansas  as  well.   No  one  could  accuse  the  Free 
Soilers  of  lacking  interest  this  time.   But  they  were  still  too 
young  upon  the  soil,  and  had  not  suffered  enough  indigni- 
ties, to  make  them  united  for  a  common  cause.    Moreover, 
the  winter  of  1854-55  had  been  not  only  unusually  mild,  but 
politically  quiet  as  well."   Hence  the  Missourians  again  car- 
ried everything  before  them  when  they  invaded  Kansas  for 
the  second   time   to  deny  to   its  citizens   of  Northern  and 
Eastern  origin  the  votes  to  which  they  were  rightfully  enti- 
tled.   They  came  by  companies,  each  assigned  to  its  special 
field  of  activity,  and  overawed  every  election  district   save 
one.'*  One  thousand  men  devoted  their  attention  to  Lawrence 
as  the  home  of  the  most  Abolitionists."   Some  of  these  had 
belonged  to   the  then  disbanded  Platte    County,  Missouri, 
"Self-Defensive  Association,"  which  by  formal  vote  of  its 
members  was  pledged  to  "bring  to  immediate  punishment 
all  Abolitionists,"  and  to  remove  from  Kansas  Territory  on 
demand  of  any  citizen  of  that  Territory,  "any  and  all  emi- 
grants who  go  there  under  the  auspices  of  the  Northern  Emi- 
grant Associations."  "  The  Blue  Lodges,  similar  organizations 
for  the  protection  of  Missouri  by  making  Kansas  impossible 
to  all  save  emigrants  from  the  South,  were  well  in  evidence. 
Each  wagon  of  the  raiders  bore  the  designation  of  an  order 
or  lodge."  What  happened  on  March  30  was  merely  a  repe- 


IN  THE  WAKE  OF  THE  WAR  CLOUD         99 

tition  of  November  29  on  a  larger  and  bolder  and  more  flagrant 
scale.  The  violations  of  law  and  order,  the  stuffing  of  the 
ballot-boxes,  the  terrorizing  of  the  Free  Soilers,  the  expelling 
of  Northern  election  officials,  —  in  brief,  the  subversion  of  the 
most  precious  of  our  free  institutions  was  complete.  The 
sacredness  of  the  ballot  was  nowhere  respected.  Of  the  6307 
votes  cast,  nearly  five-sixths  were  those  of  the  invaders.^' 
The  thirty-nine  men  who  were  elected  were  all  representatives 
of  the  South,  with  one  exception.  Seven  of  the  pro-slavery  men 
Governor  Reeder  unseated,  not  because  of  the  frauds,  but  be- 
cause of  technical  flaws  in  their  election.  He  later  explained 
his  not  declaring  more  seats  vacant,  although  he  knew  that 
the  whole  election  was  a  fraud,  by  stating  that  no  other  com- 
plaints had  been  filed,  and  that  he  thus  lacked  official  infor- 
mation, —  a  valid  technical  excuse.  Complaints  were  not 
readily  made  because  the  Missourians  threatened  with  death 
any  who  might  venture  to  file  them.  Indeed,  the  Governor 
deserves  some  credit  for  unseating  those  legislators  he  did. 
He  rendered  his  decision  in  a  room  crowded  by  fourteen  of 
his  friends,  all  armed,  and  by  the  thirty-nine  successful  can- 
didates, veritable  walking  arsenals!'"  But  no  shooting  oc- 
curred. The  Missourians  were  well  content  with  the  dis- 
qualification of  only  seven  of  their  number.  Subsequently, 
they  summarily  ousted  the  seven  Free  Soilers  legally  elected 
to  fill  these  vacancies,  and  the  remaining  Free  Soil  member 
promptly  resigned.'"  The  Legislature  was  thus  pro-slavery 
throughout. 

It  must  not  be  thought  that  this  high-handed  outrage, 
which  fairly  set  the  North  aflame  with  indignation,  went 
without  reprobation  from  the  soberer  elements  in  Missouri. 
The  exultant  Stringfellows  and  Atchisons  represented  the 
blood  and  thunder  pro-slaveryites ;  but  there  were  other 
voices.  To  their  credit  be  it  recorded  that  the  Parkville 
Luminary,  Boonville  Observer,  Independence  Messenger,  Jef- 
ferson City  Inquirer,  Missouri  Democrat,  St.  Louis  Intelli- 
gencer, Columbia  Statesman,  Western  Reporter,  Glasgow  Times, 
Fulton  Telegraph,  Paris  Mercury  and  Hannibal  Messenger 
spoke  out  bravely  against  the  invasion  of  Kansas  by  mobs  and 
the  frauds  at  the  polls."  For  its  conscientious  scruples  the 
Parkville  Luminary  promptly  met  an  unmerited  fate.   It  was 


100  JOHN  BROWN 

completely  destroyed  on  April  14,  its  plant  being  thrown  into 
the  river  and  its  editors  warned  that,  if  found  in  town  three 
weeks  later,  they  would  follow  their  type  into  the  Missouri. 
If  they  moved  to  Kansas,  the  mob  assured  them,  they  would 
be  followed  and  hanged  wherever  found."  If  a  citizens'  meet- 
ing at  Webster,  Missouri,  highly  approved  of  this  action  and 
asserted  that  they  had  "no  arguments  against  abolition  papers 
but  Missouri  River,  bonfire  and  hemp  rope,"  "  there  were 
plenty  of  more  conservative  citizens.  Unfortunately,  they 
remained  in  the  minority;  but  to  them  appealed  the  argument 
that  if  the  entire  border  population  of  Missouri  were  to  move 
into  Kansas,  the  injury  to  Missouri's  progress  and  prosperity 
would  be  great.  They  felt,  all  the  more  as  they  were  attached 
to  their  own  homes,  that  upon  the  States  farther  South  rested 
the  duty  of  colonizing  Kansas."* 

The  first  Territorial  Legislature,  which  so  thoroughly  mis- 
represented Kansas,  met  at  Pawnee  on  July  2.  After  un- 
seating the  Free  Soil  delegates  and  organizing,  it  adjourned 
to  meet  again  at  Shawnee  on  July  16.  This  change  of  location 
gave  Governor  Reeder  the  opportunity  which  he  had  been 
seeking.  He  had  vetoed  the  removal  bill,  only  to  have  it 
passed  over  his  veto.'^  He  then  declared  that  the  Legislature 
was  no  longer  a  legal  body.  In  this  contention  he  was  not 
upheld  by  the  Chief  Justice  of  the  Territory,  S.  D.  Lecompte, 
the  Associate  Justice,  Rush  Elmore,  and  the  United  States 
District  Attorney,  A.  J.  Isacks,"  and  the  Legislature  there- 
after went  its  own  way  and  had  little  to  do  with  the  Execu- 
tive. It  did,  however,  petition  President  Pierce  for  Reeder's 
removal.  Its  messenger  learned  on  his  way  that  Reeder  had 
been  dismissed  from  office  on  July  28,  ostensibly  not  because 
of  the  quarrel  with  the  Legislature,  but  because  of  his  specu- 
lations in  Indian  lands  near  Pawnee."  The  underlying  reason 
was,  none  the  less,  the  pro-slavery  party's  hatred  of  him." 
As  for  his  land  speculations,  he  openly  stated  to  the  Howard 
Committee  the  circumstances  connected  therewith,  and  they 
have  not  been  held  to  reflect  on  his  character.'"  Governor 
Reeder  at  once  became  a  valuable  leader  of  the  Kansas  Free 
Soilers,  being  thus  forcibly  converted  into  an  Abolitionist  from 
a  sympathizer  with  the  Squatter  Sovereignty  policy,  and  was 
regarded  in  the  East  as  a  martyr  to  the  Abolition  cause, 


IN  THE  WAKE  OF  THE  WAR  CLOUD       loi 

particularly  after  he  was  compelled  to  flee  from  Kansas  in 
disguise,  in  May,  1856,  never  to  return  to  that  State.  As  for 
the  Legislature,  it  spent  July  and  August  in  authorizing  a 
militia,  appointing  a  full  staff  of  pro-slavery  military  and  civil 
officers,  in  establishing  a  complete  code  of  laws  for  the  gov- 
ernment of  the  Territory,  based  on  the  Missouri  code,  and 
in  passing  those  extreme  Black  Laws  which  John  Brown,  Jr., 
was  so  quick  to  violate.  On  the  last  day  of  its  session,  the 
Speaker,  General  J.  H.  Stringfellow,  offered  a  characteristic 
resolution,  which  was  readily  adopted:  "It  is  the  duty  of  the 
Proslavery  Party,  the  Union  men  of  Kansas  Territory,  to 
know  but  one  issue,  Slavery;  and  that  any  party  making  or 
attempting  to  make  any  other,  is,  and  should  be,  held,  as  an 
ally  of  abolitionism  and  disunion."  ^o  For  all  this,  no  genuine 
attempt  was  made  to  enforce  the  Black  Laws ;  they  were  dead 
letters  from  the  time  of  enactment.  If  they  were  intended  to 
frighten  off  further  emigration  from  free  States,  they  failed 
miserably ;  if  they  were  intended  to  terrorize  those  already  in 
the  Territory,  they  were  an  even  more  dismal  failure.  On  the 
other  hand,  reprinted  in  pamphlet  form  and  widely  circulated 
throughout  the  North  and  East,  the  Black  Laws  added  fuel 
to  the  already  intense  flame  of  Northern  indignation,  and 
became  an  unanswerable  demonstration  of  the  intolerance 
of  the  pro-slavery  domination  of  Kansas  and  the  lengths  to 
which  it  would  go. 

The  Free  State  men,  especially  those  in  Lawrence,  among 
whom  Charles  Robinson,  the  agent  of  the  New  England  Emi- 
gration Society,  and  Martin  F.  Conway  were  beginning  to 
stand  out  as  leaders,  as  soon  as  they  could  calmly  consider 
the  situation,  decided  that  the  bogus  Legislature  and  its  laws 
must  be  repudiated."  It  soon  became  their  policy  to  call  a 
Constitutional  convention,  frame  a  Constitution  and  then 
apply  to  Congress  for  admittance  as  a  free  State.  As  has 
already  been  pointed  out,  they  were  not  united  among  them- 
selves. If  there  were  ardent  Abolitionists  among  them,  there 
were  also  many  who  were  unfriendly  to  the  free  negro,  even 
when  they  wished  slavery  excluded  from  the  Territory.  The 
men  who  had  settled  Kansas  represented  every  state  of  politi- 
cal belief,  for  the  magnet  of  free  land  was  all  that  had  drawn 
many  of  them  there.    In  the  summer  of  1855  they  might 


102  JOHN  BROWN 

roughly  have  been  classed  as  moderates  and  radicals;  there 
existed,  too,  considerable  jealousy  on  the  part  of  the  other 
emigrants  toward  those  New  Englanders  who  came  out  under 
the  auspices  of  the  Emigrant  Aid  Societies.*^  The  first  of  six 
conventions  to  meet  in  Lawrence  on  or  before  August  15,  in 
order  to  repudiate  the  Legislature,  was  composed  of  citizens 
of  that  settlement.  It  assembled  June  8  and  decided  to  issue 
a  call  for  a  State  convention,  to  be  made  up  of  five  delegates 
from  each  of  the  eighteen  election  districts  in  Kansas.  This 
convention  was  to  have  as  its  purpose  the  taking  "into  con- 
sideration the  relation  the  people  of  this  Territory  bear  to  the 
Legislature  about  to  convene  at  Pawnee."*^  It  was  to  this 
gathering  that  John  Brown,  Jr.,  came  on  June  25,  to  help 
to  draft  the  announcement  that  the  Free  State  men  answered 
"Ready"  to  the  threats  of  war  from  Missouri.  This  conven- 
tion further  resolved  that  it  was  in  favor  of  making  Kansas 
a  free  Territory  and  in  consequence  a  free  State.  Finally, 
since  the  Pawnee  Legislature  "owed  its  existence  to  a  com- 
bined system  of  fraud  and  force,"  the  members  of  the  conven- 
tion resolved  that  they  were  bound  by  no  laws  whatsoever 
of  its  creation.** 

Two  days  later,  June  27,  James  H.  Lane  made  his  first 
appearance  in  Kansas  history  as  chairman  of  the  abortive 
attempt  to  organize  the  National  Democratic  party  in  the 
Territory,  this  failure  soon  bringing  Lane  into  the  ranks  of 
the  Free  Soilers.  Unlike  all  the  other  conventions  of  this 
period,  it  in  no  wise  attempted  to  repudiate  the  Legislature.*^ 
The  next  gathering,  that  of  July  11,  was  attended  by  the 
expelled  Free  State  members  of  the  Legislature  and  other  citi- 
zens. In  it  the  conflict  of  opinion  between  radicals  and  mod- 
erates was  very  marked,  the  repudiation  of  the  Legislature 
and  the  call  for  a  mass  meeting  in  Lawrence  on  August  14, 
to  consider  the  government  of  the  Territory,  alone  being 
unanimous.*^  The  August  14  convention,  in  which  Lane  par- 
ticipated, turned  out  to  be  ready  for  a  fairly  radical  stand. 
Dr.  Charles  Robinson  was  chairman  of  the  committee  on 
resolutions,  which  roundly  denounced  the  bogus  Legislature, 
repudiated  its  authority,  and  committed  the  Free  State  party 
to  the  forming  of  a  State  Constitution  of  their  own  with  a  view 
to  admission  to  the  Union,  but  provided  no  machinery  by 


IN  THE  WAKE  OF  THE  WAR  CLOUD       103 

which  this  should  be  done.  If  the  resolutions  were  radical, 
the  net  result  -vVas  conservative.  On  the  second  day  there  was 
also  adopted  a  call  for  a  convention  at  Big  Springs,  to  be  held 
on  September  5.  Delegates  to  it  were  to  be  appointed  at  a 
meeting  on  August  25,  and  the  purpose  of  these  gatherings 
was  to  be  left  largely  to  what  the  hour  might  demand. 

Curiously,  as  if  the  specific  relationship  and  purpose  of 
these  gatherings  were  not  puzzling  enough,  a  second  conven- 
tion also  met  in  Lawrence  on  August  15,  while  the  first  was 
still  in  session.  This  second  body  was  presided  over  by  Dr. 
A.  Hunting,  and  comprised  the  radicals  of  the  Free  State 
party,  some  of  whom,  like  Charles  Robinson  and  M.  F.  Con- 
way, were  actually  members  of  both  conventions.  John 
Brown,  Jr.,  was  one  of  the  committee  on  "business,"  which 
turned  out  to  be  a  call  for  a  constitutional  gathering  at  Topeka 
on  October  19,  for  the  "speedy  formation  of  a  State  consti- 
tution, with  an  intention  of  immediate  application  to  be 
admitted  as  a  State  into  the  Union  of  the  United  States  of 
America."  The  distinction  between  these  two  simultaneous 
conventions  of  August  15  may  be  stated  thus:  The  first  and 
larger  one,  of  six  hundred  members,  had  as  its  aim  the  organi- 
zation of  the  Free  State  political  party  by  means  of  the  Big 
Springs  convention ;  the  second  and  radical  one  looked  to  the 
immediate  establishment  of  a  Free  State  government,  to  be 
set  up  in  opposition  to  the  pro-slavery  Legislature  still  sitting 
at  the  Shawnee  Mission,  and  now  presided  over  by  the  second 
Territorial  Governor,  Wilson  Shannon,  of  Ohio, — a  Governor, 
in  truth,  to  please  the  most  violent  Border  Ruffian  or  pro- 
slavery  agitator.'' 

Out  of  these  numerous  meetings  came  the  Big  Springs 
convention  on  September  5,  which  adopted  a  platform  — 
the  first  one  —  for  the  Free  State  party,  and  nominated  ex- 
Governor  Reeder  as  delegate  to  Congress.  The  platform  was 
a  great  disappointment  to  the  radical  Abolitionists  of  the 
John  Brown  type,  both  in  Kansas  and  New  England,  for 
while  it  resolved  that  slavery  was  a  curse  and  that  Kansas 
should  be  free,  it  announced  that  it  would  consent  "to  any 
fair  and  reasonable  provision  in  regard  to  the  slaves  already 
in  the  Territory."  More  than  that,  it  specifically  voted  that 
Kansas  should  be  a  free  white  State,  and  recorded  itself  as 


104  JOHN  BROWN 

being  in  favor  of  "stringent  laws  excluding  all  negroes,  bond 
and  free,  from  the  Territory."  Indeed,  as  if  to  answer  the 
Southern  charge  that  the  Free  Soil  citizens  of  Kansas  were 
radical,  no-union-with-slaveholders,  anti-slavery  men,  the 
convention  denounced  attempts  to  interfere  with  slavery  and 
slaves,  and  declared  "that  the  stale  and  ridiculous  charge  of 
Abolitionism  so  industriously  imputed  to  the  Free  State  party 
...  is  without  a  shadow  of  truth  to  support  it."**  It  is 
hardly  surprising  that  to  those  men  who,  like  the  Browns,  had 
come  to  Kansas  to  wage  war  with  slavery,  this  policy  of  com- 
promise—  a  last  attempt  to  head  off  a  violent  conflict  be- 
tween the  two  forces  contending  for  control  of  the  Territory 
— should  have  smacked  of  the  cowardly.  Nor  did  the  vigorous 
denunciation  of  the  Shawnee  Legislature  in  the  resolutions 
passed  by  the  convention  mollify  men  of  this  type.  Charles 
Stearns,  the  only  Lawrence  representative  of  the  Liberator 
school  of  Abolitionists,  denounced  the  proceedings  with  the 
vigor  of  language  characteristic  of  that  school,  and  was  in  turn 
reprobated  as  an  impossible  Garrisonian  of  the  deepest  dye. 
"All  sterling  anti-slavery  men,  here  and  elsewhere,  cannot  keep 
from  spitting  upon  it  [the  platform],"  wrote  Stearns  to  the 
Kansas  Free  State  of  September  24,  1855,  "and  all  pro-slavery 
people  must,  in  their  hearts,  perfectly  despise  the  base  syco- 
phants who  originated  and  adopted  it."  *'  In  the  East,  Horace 
Greeley  reluctantly  accepted  the  platform  in  the  following 
words:  "Why  free  blacks  should  be  excluded  it  is  difficult  to 
understand ;  but  if  Slavery  can  be  kept  out  by  a  compromise 
of  that  sort,  we  shall  not  complain.  An  error  of  this  character 
may  be  corrected;  but  let  Slavery  obtain  a  foothold  there 
and  it  is  not  so  easily  removed." '" 

Doubtless  when  Lawrence  was  threatened  with  destruc- 
tion less  than  three  months  later,  by  the  pro-slavery  forces 
encamped  on  the  Wakarusa  River,  Mr.  Stearns  cited  their 
presence  as  proof  that  the  Big  Springs  platform  had  utterly 
failed  to  mollify  the  hostile  Missourians  or  to  lessen  their  con- 
tempt for  the  Free  Soilers,  whom  they  still  despised  as  arrant 
cowards.  Certain  it  is  that  the  trend  of  events  speedily 
forced  the  Free  State  party  itself  into  an  entirely  different 
attitude  from  that  it  sought  to  maintain  at  Big  Springs.  The 
anti-negro  attitude  of  the  party  was,  however,  upheld  at  the 


IN  THE  WAKE  OF  THE  WAR  CLOUD       105 

Topeka  convention,  which  met  at  Topeka  on  October  23  to 
form  a  Constitution  in  obedience  to  the  decision  of  the  earUer 
delegate  convention  of  September  19  (ordered  by  the  radical 
Lawrence  convention  of  August  15).  The  Topeka  Constitu- 
tional convention  of  thirty-four  members,  presided  over  by 
James  H.  Lane,  consisted  of  four  physicians,  twelve  lawyers, 
thirteen  farmers,  two  merchants,  two  clergymen  and  one 
saddler;  a  majority  favored  the  exclusion  of  free  negroes, 
but  finally  decided  to  submit  this  question  to  the  people." 
By  1287  ballots  to  453,  the  voters  of  the  Territory  upheld 
the  negro  exclusion  policy  on  December  15,  and  made  it  clear 
to  the  rest  of  the  country  that,  if  slavery  in  Kansas  itself  was 
opposed  by  the  Free  Soil  party,  it  was  not  in  the  least  due  to 
any  liking  for  negroes,  or  any  desire  to  extend  to  those  who 
were  free  the  opportunities  afforded  by  the  opening  of  the 
Territory,  or  to  any  belief  that  the  continuance  of  human 
bondage  was  inconsistent  with  American  institutions.  Three- 
fourths  of  the  Free  State  settlers  were  in  favor  of  a  free  white 
State,  and  the  heaviest  voting  against  the  free  negro  was  in 
Lawrence  and  Topeka.'^  Obviously,  those  who  had  come  to 
Kansas  with  the  purpose  of  opposing  the  extension  of  slavery 
were  in  a  small  minority,  just  as  the  scanty  slave  population 
shows  either  that  few  of  the  Missouri  settlers  came  solely  for 
slavery's  sake,  or  else  that,  if  they  had  such  a  purpose,  they 
feared  to  bring  their  slaves  with  them.'' 

On  the  credit  side  of  the  record  of  the  Big  Springs  conven- 
tion must  be  noted  its  denunciation  of  the  bogus  pro-slavery 
Legislature,  its  demand  for  the  sacredness  of  the  "great 
'American  Birthright'  —  the  elective  franchise,"  and  its 
endorsement  of  the  coming  Topeka  convention  to  consider 
the  adoption  of  a  Constitution.  There  was,  moreover,  a  se- 
rious threat  in  one  of  its  resolutions  that  there  would  be 
submission  to  the  Legislature's  laws  no  longer  than  the 
Territory's  best  interests  required,  when  there  would  follow 
opposition  "to  a  bloody  issue  as  soon  as  we  ascertain  that 
peaceable  remedies  shall  fail,  and  forcible  resistance  shall  fur- 
nish any  reasonable  measure  of  success."'*  All  of  this  threat- 
ening of  fire  and  slaughter  was  placed  not  in  the  platform, 
but  in  the  resolutions;  it  was  obviously  an  attempt  at  facing 
both  ways,  and  as  such  is  justified  by  men  who  subsequently 


io6  JOHN  BROWN 

became  radical  antagonists  of  all  who  favored  slavery.*  The 
convention  also  ignored  the  Legislature's  action  in  appoint- 
ing October  i  as  the  day  for  the  election  of  a  Territorial  dele- 
gate to  the  Thirty-fourth  Congress,  and  fixed  upon  October  9 
as  the  proper  day  for  this  election ;  the  returns  from  this  vot- 
ing were  subsequently  ordered  turned  over  to  the  "Territorial 
Executive  Committee,"  instead  of  to  the  Legislature.  This 
"Executive  Committee,"  also  a  creation  of  the  Big  Springs 
Convention,  and  the  first  Free  State  steering  committee 
appointed  by  a  delegate  convention  to  take  charge  of  Free 
State  affairs,  was  headed  by  Charles  Robinson  as  chairman, 
with  Joel  K.  Goodin  as  secretary,  and  had  among  its  twenty- 
one  other  members  Martin  F.  Conway  and  John  Brown,  Jr." 
Finally,  it  was  at  this  Big  Springs  meeting  that  James  H. 
Lane  first  made  his  mark  as  a  Kansas  political  leader;  to  his 
eloquence  is  attributed  the  saving  of  the  convention  from 
a  dangerous  split,  in  that  he  brought  about  its  approval  of 
the  preliminary  Constitutional  convention  at  Topeka.^*  As  to 
Lane's  attitude  on  the  negro,  John  Brown,  Jr.,  has  testified 
to  Lane's  saying  in  Lawrence,  about  this  time:  "So  far  as  the 
rights  of  property  are  concerned  I  know  no  difference  between 
the  negro  and  a  mule.""  Later,  however.  Lane  switched 
about  on  this  as  on  other  issues. 

The  two  elections  for  Territorial  delegate  took  place  as 
scheduled.  At  the  pro-slavery  one  on  October  I ,  General  J .  W, 
Whitfield,  who  had  represented  Kansas  in  the  national  Legis- 
lature during  the  three  months  of  the  Thirty-third  Congress 
remaining  after  his  election  on  November  30,  1854,  received 
2721  out  of  2738  votes  cast,  the  Free  State  men  abstaining 
from  the  polls.  The  Howard  Committee  pronounced  857  of 
these  votes  illegal  after  only  a  partial  examination  of  the 
returns.'*  Eight  days  later,  with  conditions  reversed,  Reeder 
received  2849  Free  Soil  votes.'*  His  election  was,  of  course, 
ignored  by  the  Territorial  Governor,  Shannon.  When  Reeder 
and  Whitfield  both  presented  themselves  at  Washington,  the 
latter  was  given  his  seat  on  February  4,  1856,  only  to  be  igno- 

*  For  instance,  R.  G.  Elliott,  who  played  an  important  part  in  the  Big  Springs 
Convention,  declares  that  it  faced  "an  important  condition  that  had  to  be  dealt 
with  practically  and  with  conciliatory  discrimination." — Kansas  Historicd 
Society  Collections,  vol.  8,  p.  373. 


IN  THE  WAKE  OF  THE  WAR  CLOUD       107 

miniously  ousted  on  August  4,  "o  after  the  report  of  the  How- 
ard Committee  had  been  received  by  the  House  of  Repre- 
sentatives.* The  House  could  not,  however,  then  bring  itself 
to  seating  Reeder.  But  his  appearance  at  Washington  and 
his  vigorous  urging  of  his  claims  were  the  reason  for  the 
appointment  of  the  Howard  Committee.  This  was  in  itself  a 
splendid  triumph  for  the  new  policy  of  the  Free  State  leaders 
and  their  plan  of  an  organized  political  demand  upon  Congress 
for  recognition.  Not  only  are  the  majority  and  minority 
reports  of  the  Howard  Committee,  with  their  voluminous 
sworn  testimony,  an  invaluable  record  for  the  historian  and 
the  best  source  of  information  as  to  the  period  in  Kansas 
history  covered  by  its  inquiry,  but  the  publication  of  the 
results  thereof  made  a  profound  impression  upon  the  country 
at  large,  at  a  critical  period  in  the  Territory's  history. 

From  the  double  election  for  delegates  in  October,  1855, 
dates  that  duality  in  the  political  life  of  the  strife-torn  Terri- 
tory which  lasted  for  two  years  thereafter,  and  adds  so  much 
to  the  perplexity  of  the  cursory  student  of  Kansas  history 
prior  to  its  statehood.  It  is  not  only  that  there  were  hence- 
forth two  governments,  but  that  they  were  supported  by 
factions  bitterly  hostile  even  to  the  extent  of  bloodshed. 
There  were  always  separate  elections  for  the  same  ofhces  at 
separate  places,  with  the  double  machinery  of  counting  and 
proclaiming  the  returns,  and  there  was  even  a  duality  of  man- 
agement on  the  Free  Soil  side.  The  supplemental  Topeka 
Constitutional  convention  met,  as  determined  by  the  prelim- 
inary one  of  September  19,  on  October  23,  and  remained 
in  session  until  November  11.  The  Constitution  it  adopted 
followed  closely  those  of  the  other  free  States,  providing 
that  there  should  be  no  slavery,  and  that  no  indenture  of 
any  negro  or  mulatto  made  elsewhere  should  be  valid  within 
the  State.  It  fixed  March  4,  1856,  as  the  day  for  the  meeting 
of  the  General  Assembly  called  for  by  the  document,  k"  This 
was  submitted  to  the  people  on  December  15  and  ratified  by 
a  vote  of  1 73 1  for,  to  46  against.  The  poll-books  at  Leaven- 
worth having  been  destroyed  by  a  pro-slavery  mob,  its  vote  is 

*  The  Howard  Committee  reported  that  both  Whitfield's  and  Reeder's  elec- 
tions were  illegal,  but  that  Reeder  had  received  more  votes  of  resident  citizens 
than  Whitfield.   See  Howard  Report,  p.  67. 


io8  JOHN  BROWN 

not  recorded  in  the  above  total.  "^  Thereafter  the  Free  Soil 
forces  insisted  that  Kansas  was  an  organized  free  State,  when 
demanding  its  admission  into  the  Union.  The  convention, 
before  adjourning,  appointed  another  Free  State  Executive 
Committee,  with  the  same  secretary  as  had  the  Robinson 
Committee,  Joel  K.  Goodin,  but  with  Lane,  already  a  serious 
rival  of  Charles  Robinson,  as  its  chairman,  and  five  other 
members.  Lane,  therefore,  emerged  from  the  Topeka  con- 
vention with  additional  prestige  and  thoroughly  committed 
to  the  Free  State  policies. 

Out  of  all  the  meetings  and  conventions  of  the  nine  months 
after  the  stolen  March  30  election,  there  had  come,  then,  greai 
gains  to  the  Free  State  movement.  The  liberty  party  had 
been  organized,  leaders  had  been  developed,  and  a  regulai 
policy  of  resistance  by  legal  and  constitutional  measures 
adopted.  If  counsels  of  compromise  were  still  entirely  too 
apparent  and  too  potent,  the  train  of  events  which  resulted 
in  Kansas's  admission  as  a  free  State  was  well  under  Way. 
Not  unnaturally,  the  pro-slavery  leaders  at  first  regarded  this 
growing  opposition  with  amusement  or  contempt.  They  were 
still  convinced  in  October,  1855,  that  Kansas  was  theirs  by 
right  of  their  larger  battalions  and  by  right  of  conquest. 
Moreover,  Governor  Shannon,  with  all  his  authority,  was  on 
their  side,  and  behind  him  the  Federal  Government.  The 
adoption  of  the  Topeka  constitution  did,  however,  arouse 
their  anger;  to  this  their  answer  was  the  organization  in 
November  of  their  own  party,  which,  with  unconscious  irony, 
they  dubbed  the  "  Law-and-Order  Party,"  at  a  meeting  over 
which  Governor  Shannon  presided. ""  Indeed,  as  their  hitherto 
triumphal  overriding  of  Kansas  began  to  meet  a  more  and 
more  compact  resistance,  their  mood  began  to  change.  The 
leaders  were  quick  to  feel  their  power  slipping  from  their 
hands,  particularly  when,  the  first  rush  from  Missouri  being 
over,  the  steady  stream  of  emigration  from  the  East  made  it 
evident  that  they  were  being  outnumbered.  Their  followers, 
also,  began  to  get  out  of  hand;  from  overawing  by  a  show 
of  force,  it  was  easy  to  proceed  to  actual  physical  violence 
ill  the  hope  of  terrifying  the  hated  Free  Soiler  or  of  driving 
him  from  the  Territory.  The  temptation  to  crime  was  all 
the  greater  since  there  was  no  non-partisan  judicial  machin- 


IN  THE  WAKE  OF  THE  WAR  CLOUD       109 

ery,  and  often  no  machinery  at  all  outside  of  the  Federal 
judiciary."^ 

The  Howard  Committee  found  that,  of  all  the  crimes  testi- 
fied to  during  its  sessions,  an  indictment  had  been  found  in 
but  one  case."^  In  that,  the  man  charged  with  murder  was 
a  Free  Soiler,  Cole  McCrea  by  name,  who  had  killed  a  pro- 
slavery  man,  Malcolm  Clark,  at  Leavenworth,  on  April  30, 
1855,  in  a  quarrel  over  certain  trust  lands  and  McCrea's  right 
to  participate  in  and  vote  in  a  squatter's  meeting.  The  first 
of  the  long  series  of  homicides  which  was  to  make  of  the  Ter- 
ritory in  very  truth  a  "bleeding  Kansas,"  was  not  a  political 
one.  It  occurred  near  Lawrence  on  the  first  election  day, 
November  30,  1854,  Henry  Davis,  a  Border  Ruffian  from 
Kentucky,  being  killed  by  Lucius  Kibbey,  of  Iowa.  Davis,  in 
an  intoxicated  condition,  had  assailed  Kibbey  with  a  knife.  1°' 
Such  an  election-day  crime  might  easily  have  occurred  any- 
where. The  killing  of  Clark, ""  in  the  following  spring,  be- 
came, on  the  other  hand,  of  marked  political  significance, 
because  of  the  treatment  of  his  slayer,  McCrea.  The  latter 
was  imprisoned  at  Leavenworth  until  late  in  November.  The 
injustice  of  his  case  lay  in  the  court's  denying  to  McCrea  his 
counsel,  James  H.  Lane,  because  the  latter  would  not  take 
the  oath  of  allegiance  to  the  pro-slavery  Legislature,  and  in 
McCrea's  subsequent  treatment,  on  September  17,  when  he 
was  brought  before  the  grand  jury  of  nineteen  men  sum- 
moned by  Chief  Justice  Lecompte  and  picked  by  him.  Sixteen 
were  openly  selected  and  three  in  private ;  one  of  the  nineteen 
had  been  engaged  with  Clark  in  the  attack  on  McCrea.  For 
a  whole  week  Justice  Lecompte  endeavored  to  induce  the  jury 
to  indict  McCrea,  but  in  vain;  the  evidence  was  too  strongly 
in  favor  of  McCrea  for  even  this  picked  jury  to  find  a  true 
bill  against  him.  As  the  foreman  refused  to  bring  in  a  verdict 
.of  "not  found,"  Justice  Lecompte  adjourned  the  court  until 
the  second  Monday  of  November,  when  McCrea  was  finally 
indicted,  after  having  been  illegally  deprived  of  liberty  during 
the  intervening  period.  When,  in  November,  he  was  able  to 
make  his  escape  from  jail  and  leave  the  Territory  by  way  of 
Lawrence,  the  inability  of  its  citizens  to  offer  him  protection 
added  greatly  to  their  stress  of  mind.  The  whole  episode  of 
McCrea's  confinement  had  roused  the  indignation  of  the  Free 


no  JOHN  BROWN 

Soilers  everywhere,  convinced  as  they  were  that  McCrea 
had  shot  in  self-defence.'"* 

Even  more  stirring  to  the  friends  of  liberty  was  the  ill- 
treatment  of  William  Phillips,  an  active  Free  State  lawyer 
of  Leavenworth,  and  a  friend  of  Cole  McCrea's,  who  was 
present  when  Clark  was  killed.  Phillips  received  notice  on 
April  30,  from  the  pro-slavery  vigilance  committee  appointed 
on  that  date,  to  leave  the  Territory.  On  his  refusal  to  go  or 
to  sign  a  written  agreement  that  he  would  leave  Kansas,  a 
majority  of  the  committee,  so  one  of  its  members  testified, 
"voted  to  tar  and  feather  him.  The  committee  could  get  no 
tar  and  feathers  this  side  of  Rial  to;  and  we  took  him  up  there 
and  feathered  him  a  little  above  Rialto,  Missouri."  i"*  This 
witness  forgot  to  add  that  one  side  of  Phillips's  head  was 
shaved ;  that  after  his  clothes  were  stripped  from  him  and  the 
tar  applied,  he  was  ridden  on  a  rail  for  a  mile  and  a  half,  and 
then  sold  for  one  dollar  by  a  negro  auctioneer  at  the  behest 
of  his  tormentors.  A  public  meeting  at  Leavenworth  on  May 
19  heartily  endorsed  this  treatment  of  "William  Phillips,  the 
moral  perjurer."  ""  The  next  day  the  Leavenworth  Herald 
said  of  the  mob's  work:  "The  joy,  exultation  and  glorification 
produced  by  it  in  our  community  are  unparalleled . ' '  This  out- 
rage failed  to  daunt  Phillips's  courage ;  he  stayed  in  Kansas, 
only  to  die  later  at  the  hands  of  his  pro-slavery  enemies.  As 
John  Brown  was  leaving  Ohio  for  Kansas,  a  similar  experience 
befell  the  Rev.  Pardee  Butler  at  Atchison.  His  pro-slavery 
fellow  citizens,  on  August  16,  placed  him  on  a  raft  and  shipped 
him  down  the  Missouri,  throwing  stones  at  him  and  his 
queer  craft  as  the  current  bore  him  away.  His  forehead 
was  ornamented  with  the  letter  R ;  and  the  flags  on  his  raft 
bore  the  inscriptions,  "Greeley  to  the  rescue,  I  have  a  nigger; " 
"Eastern  Aid  Express;"  and  "'Rev.  Mr.  Butler,'  agent  to 
the  Underground  Railroad.""'  The  Squatter  Sovereign,  the- 
Stringfellow  newspaper,  notified  all  the  world  that  "the  same 
punishment  we  will  award  to  all  free-soilers,  abolitionists  and 
their  emissaries."  In  fact,  one  J.  W.  B.  Kelly  had  already 
encountered  the  hatred  of  the  pro-slavery  leaders,  for  in  the 
first  week  of  August  he  was  severely  thrashed  and  ordered 
out  of  town  for  holding  Abolition  views. ""  Yet  Butler  re- 
turned to  Atchison,  as  Phillips  did  to  Leavenworth,  only  to 


IN  THE  WAKE  OF  THE  WAR  CLOUD       iii 

meet  a  graver  fate.  Another  clergyman,  the  Rev.  William  C. 
Clark,  was  assaulted  on  a  Missouri  river  steamer  in  Septem- 
ber, for  avowing  Free  State  beliefs  that  seemed  to  his  assail- 
ants to  call  for  physical  punishment."' 

As  John  Brown  crossed  the  boundary  between  Missouri 
and  Kansas,  on  October  4,  these  outrages  were  still  agitating 
the  Territory  and  causing  men  everywhere  to  arm.  That  the 
pro-slavery  election  of  October  i  had  passed  off  peacefully, 
although  fraudulently,  had  reassured  no  one;  within  five  days 
the  Free  Soilers  were  to  hold  their  own  election  and  thus 
begin  a  Free  Kansas  governmental  structure.  Would  their 
lawless  Border  Ruffian  neighbors  permit  this  without  addi- 
tional bloodshed  and  violence?  Many  a  Free  Soil  settler  who 
had  found  his  way  into  Kansas  only  in  the  face  of  outspoken 
Missouri  hostility,  enduring  privation  if  not  starvation  on  the 
way,  because  of  his  being  a  Yankee,*  envied  the  little  Brown 
colony  their  rich  supply  of  arms  and  ammunition.  Upon 
John  Brown,  the  apostle  of  the  sword  of  Gideon,  and  his  mili- 
tant sons,  outspoken  in  their  defiance  of  slavery  and  its  laws, 
each  separate  crime  by  a  Missourian  made  a  deep  and  last- 
ing impression.  Without  loss  of  time  their  settlement  was  to 
become  known  on  both  sides  of  the  border  as  a  centre  of 
violent  resistance  to  all  who  wished  to  see  human  slavery 
introduced  into  the  Territory.  Indeed,  three  days  after  his 
arrival  at  his  destination,  October  9,  he  and  his  sons  went  to 
the  election  for  a  Free  State  delegate  "most  thoroughly  armed 
(except  Jason,  who  was  too  feeble)  but  no  enemy  appeared," 
so  John  Brown  wrote  his  wife  on  October  14,  adding,  "nor 
have  I  heard  of  any  disturbance  in  any  part  of  the  Terri- 
tory." 1"  The  spirit  of  the  Massachusetts  minute-men  was 
alive  in  Kansas. 

*  For  instance,  Samuel  Walker,  later  a  leading  citizen  of  Lawrence,  was  not 
allowed,  in  April  1855,  to  take  his  little  girl,  who  was  suffering  from  a  broken 
leg,  into  the  house  of  a  Baptist  minister  living  on  the  Missouri  border,  because 
he  came  from  the  North.  Not  until  he  reached  the  Shawnee  nation  could  he,  a 
Yankee,  get  shelter  at  night  for  his  injured  child;  food  was  obtained  only  at  night 
and  from  slaves.  —  Kansas  Historical  Collections,  vol.  6,  p.  253. 


CHAPTER  IV 

THE  CAPTAIN  OF  THE  LIBERTY  GUARDS 

Fortunately,  the  Brown  minute-men  were  not  called  upon 
for  active  service  for  a  few  weeks  after  the  arrival  of  their 
arms,  so  that  home-building  could  progress  with  some  rapid- 
ity, if  one  can  really  give  the  name  of  home  to  a  shed  open  in 
front,  its  roof  of  poles  covered  by  long  shingles,  and  its  three 
sides  formed  of  bundles  of  long  prairie  grass  pressed  close 
between  upright  stakes.  Such  a  shanty  sheltered  John  Brown, 
Jr.,  his  wife  and  some  of  the  others,  until  late  in  February, 
1856 ;  while  Jason's  mansion  during  that  period  consisted  only 
of  log  walls  and  a  roof  of  cotton  sheeting.  It  had  some  advan- 
tages, however,  for  Mrs.  Jason  Brown  wrote,  on  November 
25,  1855,  that  "the  little  house  we  live  in  now  has  no  floor  in 
it,  but  has  quite  a  good  chimney  in  so  that  I  can  cook  a  meal 
without  smoking  my  eyes  almost  out  of  my  head."  *  The  per- 
manent house-building  was  rendered  slow  and  difficult  by  the 
enfeeblement  of  two  of  the  new  arrivals,  for  Henry  Thomp- 
son and  Oliver  Brown  succumbed  to  the  prevailing  ague  in 
November,  and  had  not  recovered  by  the  end  of  the  month.' 
Nor  had  Jason  when,  late  in  November,  there  came  the  first 
real  call  to  arms  of  the  Brown  settlement,  to  which  its  poverty- 
stricken  owners  had  given  at  various  times  three  names, 
Brown's  Station,  Brownsville  and  Fairfield.  Not  one  of  them 
has  survived,  and  the  last,  from  the  beginning  a  misnomer, 
was  particularly  so  in  November,  1855,  not  only  because  of 
the  exceptionally  cold  and  bleak  Kansas  winter,  but  also 
because  of  the  reports  of  new  and  alarming  crimes  of  which 
Free  State  men  were  the  victims. 

The  killings  began  in  earnest  on  October  25,  at  Doniphan, 
a  town  near  Atchison,  when  Samuel  Collins,  owner  of  a  saw- 
mill at  Doniphan,  was  shot  by  a  pro-slavery  man,  Patrick 
Laughlin  by  name,  for  political  reasons.  Laughlin,  having 
betrayed  a  secret  Free  Soil  society  known  as  the  "Kansas 
Legion,"  of  which  he  had  for  a  time  been  a  member,  was  de- 


THE  CAPTAIN  OF  THE  LIBERTY  GUARDS     113 

nounced  by  Collins  for  his  action.  Like  Montagues  and  Capu- 
lets,  they  met  armed  the  next  morning,  with  friends  or  rela- 
tions about  them.  When  the  fight  was  over,  Collins  lay  dead; 
Laughlin,  seriously  wounded,  recovered  and  lived  on  in  Atchi- 
son, no  effort  being  made  to  indict  or  punish  him.^  If  there 
was  possibly  room  for  doubt  as  to  whether  Collins  or  Laugh- 
lin assumed  the  offensive,  there  was  none  whatever  in  the 
case  of  Charles  Dow,  a  young  Free  State  man  from  Ohio,  who 
was  shot  from  behind  and  cruelly  murdered  near  Hickory 
Point,  Douglas  County,  by  Franklin  N.  Coleman,  of  Virginia, 
a  pro-slavery  settler.  This  killing  was  due  to  a  quarrel  over 
Coleman's  cutting  timber  on  Dow's  claim,  and  was,  therefore, 
in  its  origin  non-political.  Yet  out  of  it,  too,  came  alarming 
political  consequences.  After  attending  a  Free  Soil  settlers' 
meeting,  called  November  26  to  protest  against  the  crime 
and  to  bring  the  murderer  to  justice,  Jacob  Branson,  the  Free 
State  man  with  whom  Dow  had  been  living,  was  arrested 
that  same  night  by  the  pro-slavery  sheriff,  Samuel  J.  Jones, 
who  resided  at  Westport,  Missouri.  Jones  was  postmaster  of 
Westport  while  also  sheriff  of  Douglas  County,  Kansas,  and 
as  will  be  seen,  the  gravest  menace  to  the  peace  of  the  little 
Lawrence  community.  The  pro-slavery  warrants  upon  which 
Jones  arrested  Branson  charged  him  with  making  threats  and 
with  breaches  of  the  peace.  As  Sheriff  Jones  and  his  posse, 
which  had  then  shrunk  to  fifteen  men,  neared  Blanton's 
Bridge  with  their  prisoner,  after  having  spent  two  hours 
carousing  at  a  house  on  the  road,  a  party  of  fifteen  Free  State 
men  headed  by  Samuel  N.  Wood,  of  Lawrence,  stopped  them 
with  levelled  guns.  In  the  parley  which  followed,  Branson 
went  over  to  his  rescuers,  who  absolutely  refused  to  recognize 
the  authority  of  Sheriff  Jones,  and  told  him  that  the  only  Jones 
they  knew  was  the  postmaster  at  Westport.  The  rescuing 
party  reached  Lawrence  with  Branson  before  dawn ;  *  there 
it  was  at  once  recognized  that  the  rescue  would  give  the  pro- 
slavery  men  precisely  the  excuse  they  needed  for  an  attack 
upon  the  town.  To  an  excited  meeting  of  citizens  held  that 
evening,  Branson  related  his  story.  His  auditors  were,  how- 
ever, calm  enough  to  decline  all  responsibility  for  the  affair 
in  the  name  of  Lawrence.  Realizing  that  this  action  would 
probably  avail  them  but  little,  a  Committee  of  Safety  was 


114  JOHN  BROWN 

organized  to  form  the  citizens  into  guards  and  to  put  the  town 
into  a  position  of  defence.^ 

Meanwhile,  Sheriff  Jones,  after  first  despatching  a  messen- 
ger to  his  own  State,  Missouri,  for  aid,  appealed  on  advice 
of  others  to  the  Governor  of  Kansas,  who  might  naturally  be 
expected  to  have  a  greater  interest  in  the  affair  than  any  one 
in  Missouri.^    Governor  Shannon's  interest  was  soon  suffi- 
ciently aroused  for  him  to  issue  to  the  murderer,  three  days 
after  the  crime,  a  commission  as  justice  of  the  peace.'   Being 
also  of  a  confiding  nature,  he  was  thus  doubly  prepared  to 
believe  the  exaggerated  statements  made  to  him  by  Sheriff 
Jones,  who  declared  that  he  must  have  no  less  than  three  thou- 
sand men  forthwith  in  order  to  carry  out  the  laws,*  as  the  Gov- 
ernor might  consider  an  "open  rebellion"  as  having  already 
commenced,  —  this  as  a  result  of  the  rescue  of  a  single  prisoner, 
in  which  not  a  shot  was  fired.    But  the  Free  State  men  having 
destroyed  three  cabins,  those  of  Coleman  and  two  settlers 
named  Hargus  and  Buckley,  and  thereby  frightened  some 
pro-slavery  families  into  returning  to  Missouri,  Jones  was 
easily  able  to  make  Governor  Shannon  think  that  an  armed 
band   had   burnt   a   number  of   homes,   destroyed   personal 
property,  and  turned  whole  families  out  of  doors.^  The  Gov- 
ernor at  once  ordered  Major-General  William  P.  Richardson 
and  Adjutant-General  H.  J.  Strickler,  of  the  newly  organized 
pro-slavery  militia,  to  repair  to  Lecompton  with  as  large  forces 
as  they  could  raise,  and  report  to  Sheriff  Jones  to  aid  him 
in  the  execution  of  any  legal  process  in  his  hands.i"  This  was 
the  beginning  of  the  so-called  "Wakarusa  War." 

Thus  the  Branson  rescue  gave  the  extreme  pro-slavery  men 
the  opportunity  they  had  been  looking  for  to  mass  their  forces 
against  Lawrence.  But  it  is  also  probably  true  that,  as  Sheriff 
Jones  declared  later  in  an  afirdavit,  he  would  have  met  with 
violence  had  he  attempted  to  serve  any  warrant  in  that  town 
where  the  citizens,  armed  with  the  much  dreaded  Sharp's 
rifles,  were  daily  drilling,  and  were  outspoken  in  their  refusal 
to  obey  any  of  the  laws  enacted  by  the  Pawnee  Legislature. 
Governor  Shannon,  being  sworn  to  enforce  the  laws  of  the  Ter- 
ritory, had  no  other  course  open  to  him  than  to  give  aid  to 
Jones.  But  his  pro-slavery  feelings  led  him  to  swallow  every 
statement  made  to  him  by  Jones.   In  the  number  of  men  he 


THE  CAPTAIN  OF  THE  LIBERTY  GUARDS     115 

called  together,  his  willingness  to  have  Missourians  figure  as 
Kansas  militia,  and  his  readiness  to  assume  that  there  was 
a  serious  "rebellion"  in  Lawrence  despite  the  assertions  of 
its  citizens,  he  again  showed  his  bias.  Moreover,  he  cannot 
altogether  escape  the  charge  of  duplicity,  for,  while  he  never 
modified  his  orders  of  November  27  to  his  generals,  he  wrote 
to  President  Pierce  the  next  day  that  the  sherilT  had  called 
on  him  for  more  troops  than  were  really  needed,  that  "five  to 
eight  hundred  men"  would  be  enough.  If  his  excuse  for  this 
inconsistency  is  his  belief  that  his  generals  could  not  raise 
more  than  five  or  six  hundred  men,  instead  of  the  three  thou- 
sand Jones  asked  for,  he  certainly  did  not  make  it  plain  to 
the  citizens  of  Kansas  that  he  wanted  the  smaller  number. 
Again,  while  he  subsequently  testified  that  he  had  never 
dreamed  that  any  one  would  go  to  Missouri  for  men  to  rein- 
force Jones,  he  made  not  the  slightest  effort  to  reprove  any  one 
for  having  done  so,  or  to  send  back  those  citizens  of  Missouri 
who  were  there  in  the  belief  that  he  had  summoned  them. 
True,  he  wrote  to  Pierce  that  the  reinforcing  of  Jones  by 
sufficient  citizens  of  the  Territory  to  enable  him  to  execute 
his  processes  "is  the  great  object  to  be  accomplished,  to  avoid 
the  dreadful  evils  of  civil  war."  "  But  he  lifted  no  finger  to 
prevent  when  there  swarmed  into  Kansas  the  same  men  who 
had  already  invaded  Kansas  three  times  in  order  to  stuff  or 
steal  the  ballot-boxes,  and  were  now  only  too  happy  to  encamp 
near  Lawrence  with  guns  in  their  hands  under  the  sanction 
of  the  government.  His  subsequent  defence  that  after  the 
arrival  of  the  Missourians  he  deemed  it  best  "to  mitigate  an 
evil  which  it  was  impossible  to  suppress,  by  bringing  under 
military  control  these  irregular  and  excited  forces,"  '■^  reads 
oddly  enough.  He  did  beg  help  of  Pierce,  and  did  try  his  best 
to  call  out  the  United  States  troops  under  Colonel  E.  V.  Sum- 
ner at  Fort  Leavenworth,  to  aid  him  in  preventing  an  attack 
on  the  citizens  of  Lawrence,  who  he  had  at  the  same  time  de- 
clared could  best  be  subdued  by  citizens  of  Kansas  reinforcing 
Sheriff  Jones !  In  other  words,  he  now  asked  Colonel  Sumner 
to  protect  Lawrence  from  Jones  and  his  men.  But  Sumner 
refused. 

Altogether,  Governor  Shannon  claimed,  two  hundred  and 
fifty  Kansas  militia  rendezvoused  near  Franklin  on  the  Waka- 


ii6  JOHN  BROWN 

rusa,  a  small  tributary  of  the  Kansas  River,  south  of  Lawrence. 
But  this  statement  rests  on  his  assertion  alone;  most  students 
of  this  period  agree  that  not  many  more  than  fifty  Kansans 
joined  Major-General  Richardson  and  Adjutant-General 
Strickler."  Of  the  Missourians,  the  first  company  to  appear 
at  Franklin  and  go  into  camp  as  Kansas  militia  was  one  of 
fifty  men  from  Westport,  Missouri.  At  Liberty  and  Lexing- 
ton, Missouri,  two  hundred  men  with  three  pieces  of  artillery 
and  one  thousand  stand  of  arms  were  quickly  brought  to- 
gether and  sent  into  Kansas."  Brigadier-General  Lucien  J. 
Eastin,  commander  of  the  Second  Brigade  of  Kansas  Militia, 
was  also  editor  of  the  Leavenworth  Herald,  and  with  the  aid 
of  his  presses  not  only  ordered  his  own  "brigade"  to  assem- 
ble at  Leavenworth  on  December  i ,  but  circulated  the  follow- 
ing appeal  throughout  the  Missouri  border  counties: 

TO   ARMS!   TO   ARMS!  I 

It  is  expected  that  every  lover  of  Law  and  Order  will  rally  at 
Leavenworth,  on  Saturday  Dec.  i,  1855,  preparedto  march  at  once  to 
the  scene  of  the  rebellion,  to  put  down  the  outlaws  of  Douglas  County, 
who  are  committing  depredations  upon  persons  and  property,  burn- 
ing down  houses  and  declaring  open  hostility  to  the  laws,  and  have 
forcibly  rescued  a  prisoner  from  the  Sheriff.  Come  one,  come  all! 
The  laws  must  be  executed.  The  outlaws,  it  is  said,  are  armed  to 
the  teeth  and  number  1000  men.  Every  man  should  bring  his  rifle 
and  ammunition  and  it  would  be  well  to  bring  two  or  three  days' 
provisions.   Every  man  to  his  post,  and  do  his  duty.'^ 

Many  Citizens. 

A  letter  purporting  to  come  from  Daniel  Woodson,  the  Sec- 
retary of  the  Territory,  urging  Eastin  to  call  out  the  Platte 
County,  Missouri,  Rifle  Company,  "as  our  neighbors  are 
always  ready  to  help  us,"  and  adding  "do  not  implicate  the 
Governor  whatever  you  do,"  was  subsequently  denounced 
to  the  Howard  Committee  as  a  forgery  by  Mr.  Woodson 
when  under  oath."  It  did  much,  however,  to  infuriate  the 
Kansans,  and  was  effectively  used  in  the  East  as  proof  of 
Shannon's  and  Woodson's  betrayal  of  Kansas.  The  highest 
estimate  of  those  who  assembled  to  besiege  Lawrence  is  one 
by  Sheriff  Jones  of  eighteen  hundred ;  it  is  generally  believed 
that  twelve  hundred  is  the  more  accurate  figure."   Atchison 


THE  CAPTAIN  OF  THE  LIBERTY  GUARDS     117 

was,  of  course,  conspicuous  in  urging  on  the  invasion.  Speak- 
ing at  Platte  City  on  December  i,  in  his  usual  bombastic 
style,  he  said :  " 

' '  Fellow  Citizens :  We  have  done  our  duty.  We  have  done  nothing 
but  our  duty.  Not  you  —  not  me  —  but  those  that  have  gone  into 
Kansas  to  aid  Governor  Shannon  to  sustain  the  law  and  put  down 
rebellion  and  insurrection.  250  men  are  now  on  the  march  and 
probably  500  more  will  go  from  the  County  of  Platte.  Why  are  you 
not  with  them  —  you  and  you?  I  wish  that  I  was  with  them  at 
their  head.  ..." 

In  St.  Louis,  on  the  other  hand,  the  Intelligencer,  on  Decem- 
ber I,  took  a  very  different  view  of  Missouri's  duty  from  that 
of  Atchison : 

"...  The  people  of  Missouri  are  not  the  ones  to  be  called  on  to 
back  up  the  iniserable  political  puppets  that  Frank  Pierce  shall 
send  out  from  the  Eastern  States  to  play  the  fool  and  introduce 
bloodshed  and  anarchy  in  Kansas.  Now,  let  Pierce  reap  the  fruits 
of  his  imbecility.  Let  not  the  people  of  Missouri,  by  any  urgent 
appeal  or  cunning  device,  be  drawn  into  the  internal  feuds  of  Kan- 
sas. It  looks  very  much  as  if  there  were  a  preconcerted  effort  to 
do  this  very  thing.  ...  It  does  seem  to  us  that  one  of  the  devil's 
own  choicest  humbugs  is  exploding  in  the  call  on  Missouri  for 
'help.'" 

Naturally,  this  hastily  gathered  together  "army"  lacked 
cohesion  and  discipline ;  according  to  anti-slavery  descriptions, 
its  members  were  far  gone  in  drink  and  supported  themselves 
by  pillaging  the  neighborhood.  Andreas,  the  most  reliable  of 
Kansas  historians,  states  that  they  were  in  the  "delirium 
coming  from  exposure,  lack  of  food,  and  plentiful  supplies  of 
strong  drink,"  and  this  is  the  tenor  of  all  contemporary  Free 
Soil  accounts."  In  the  Lexington,  Mo.,  Express  of  December 
7,  on  the  other  hand,  two  citizens  of  that  town  reported,  after 
having  visited  the  pro-slavery  forces,  that  all  the  men  were 
"comfortably  fixed,  with  plenty  of  provisions  and  all  were  in 
high  spirits  and  anxious  for  a  fray.  .  .  .  The  arrangements 
were  good,  and  the  most  perfect  order  and  decorum  were 
preserved  at  all  times.  The  sale  of  liquor  was  prohibited." 
Some  of  the  weapons  of  this  "noble  and  gallant  set  of  fellows" 
were  proved  before  the  Howard  Committee  to  have  been 
stolen  from  the  United  States  Arsenal  at  Liberty,  Mo.,  which 


Ii8  JOHN  BROWN 

arms  the  Border  Ruffians,  with  surprising  carelessness,  failed 
to  return  when  the  Wakarusa  "war"  was  over.^" 

The  citizens  of  Lawrence,  on  hearing  of  the  coming  of  the 
Missourians,  were  content  neither  with  sending  away  Branson 
and  his  rescuers,  nor  with  organizing  their  citizens  as  guards, 
nor  with  fortifying  the  town  and  smuggling  a  howitzer  from  the 
North  through  the  enemy's  lines.  A  general  call  was  sent  out 
in  all  directions  to  Free  State  men  in  Kansas  to  come  to  the 
rescue  of  Lawrence."  The  settlers  rallied  in  response,  arriving 
alone  and  in  squads,  on  foot,  on  horseback  and  in  wagons,  regu- 
larly armed  companies  coming  from  Bloomington,  Palmyra, 
Ottawa  Creek  and  Topeka.  Naturally,  it  was  the  opportunity 
for  which  the  Brown  minute-men  had  been  longing.  It  was 
not  until  December  6,  however,  that  authentic  news  reached 
them  of  what  was  going  on,  and  that  their  aid  was  asked. 
John  Brown,  Jr.,  was  on  the  way  to  Lawrence  on  horseback 
to  ascertain  the  facts,  when  the  runner  who  was  summoning 
the  countryside  met  him.  What  happened  then,  John  Brown 
himself  described  to  his  wife  and  children  at  North  Elba  in 
a  long  letter  dated  December  i6,  1855: 

"On  getting  this  last  news  it  was  at  once  agreed  to  break  up  at 
Johns  Camp  &  take  Wealthy,  &  Jonny  to  Jason's  camp  (some  Two 
Miles  off) ;  &  that  all  the  men  but  Henry,  Jason  &  Oliver  should 
at  once  set  off  for  Lawrence  under  Arms ;  those  Three  being  wholly 
unfit  for  duty.  We  then  set  about  providing  a  little  Corn-Bread; 
&  Meat,  Blankets,  Cooking  utensils,  running  Bullets  &  loading  all 
our  Guns,  Pistols  etc.  The  Five  set  off  in  the  Afternoon,  &  after 
a  short  rest  in  the  Night  (which  was  quite  dark),  continued  our 
march  untill  after  daylight  next  Morning  when  we  got  our  Break- 
fast, started  again;  &  reached  Lawrence  in  the  Forenoon,  all  of  us 
more  or  less  lamed  by  our  tramp.  On  reaching  the  place  we  found 
that  negotiations  had  commenced  between  Gov.  Shannon  (haveing 
a  force  of  some  Fifteen  or  Sixteen  Hundred  men)  &  the  principal 
leaders  of  the  Free-State  men ;  they  having  a  force  of  some  Five 
Hundred  men  at  that  time.  These  were  busy  Night  &  day  fortify- 
ing the  Town  with  Embankments ;  &  circular  Earthworks  up  to  the 
time  of  the  Treaty  with  the  Gov,  as  an  attack  was  constantly  looked 
for;  notwithstanding  the  negotiations  then  pending.  This  state  of 
things  continued  from  Friday  until  Sunday  Evening.  On  the  Even- 
ing we  left  a  company  of  the  invaders  of  from  Fifteen  to  Twenty- 
five  attacked  some  Three  or  Four  Free-State  men,  mostly  unarmed, 
killing  a  Mr.  Barber  from  Ohio  wholly  unarmed.  His  boddy  was 
afterward  brought  in;  &  lay  for  some  days  in  the  room  afterward 


THE  CAPTAIN  OF  THE  LIBERTY  GUARDS     119 

occupied  by  a  part  of  the  company  to  wh  we  belong;  (it  being 
organized  after  we  reached  Lawrence.)  The  building  was  a  large 
unfinished  Stone  Hotel;  in  which  a  great  part  of  the  Volunteers 
were  quartered ;  &  who  witnessed  the  scene  of  bringing  in  the  Wife 
&  other  friends  of  the  murdered  man.  I  will  only  say  of  this  scene 
that  it  was  Heart-rending;  &  calculated  to  exasperate  the  men  ex- 
ceedingly; &  one  of  the  sure  results  of  Civil  War.  After  frequently 
calling  on  the  leaders  of  the  Free-State  men  to  come  &  have  an 
interview  with  him,  by  Gov.  Shannon ;  &  after  as  often  getting  for 
an  answer  that  if  he  had  any  business  to  transact  with  anyone  in 
Lawrence,  to  come  &  attend  to  it;  he  signified  his  wish  to  come  into 
the  Town;  &  an  escort  was  sent  to  the  Invaders'  Camp  to  conduct 
him  in.  When  there  the  leading  Free-State  men  finding  out  his 
weakness,  frailty  &  consciousness  of  the  awkward  circumstances 
into  which  he  had  really  got  himself;  took  advantage  of  his  Coward- 
ice, &  Folly;  &  by  means  of  that  &  the  free  use  of  Whiskey;  &  some 
Trickery;  succeeded  in  getting  a  written  arangement  with  him 
much  to  their  own  liking.  He  stipulated  with  them  to  order  the  pro- 
slavery  men  of  Kansas  home;  &  to  proclaim  to  the  Missouri  invaders 
that  they  must  quit  the  Territory  without  delay ;  and  also  to  give  up 
Gen.  Pomeroy  a  prisoner  in  their  camp;  which  was  all  done;  he  also 
recognizing  the  Volunteers  as  the  Militia  of  Kansas,  &  empowering 
their  Officers  to  call  them  out  whenever  in  their  discretion  the  safety 
of  Lawrence  or  other  portions  of  the  territory  might  require  it  to  be 
done.  He  Gov.  Shannon  gave  up  all  pretension  of  further  attemp 
to  enforce  the  enactments  of  the  Bogus  Legislature,  &  retired  sub- 
ject to  the  derision  &  scoffs  of  the  Free-State  men  (into  whose  hands 
he  had  committed  the  welfare  &  protection  of  Kansas);  &  to  the 
pity  of  some;  &  the  curses  of  others  of  the  invading  force.  So  ended 
this  last  Kansas  invasion  the  Missourians  returning  with  flying 
Colors,  after  incuring  heavy  expences;  suffering  great  exposure, 
hardships,  &  privations,  not  having  fought  any  Battles,  Burned 
or  destroyed  any  infant  towns  or  Abolition  Presses;  leaving  the 
Free-State  men  organized  &  armed,  &  in  full  possession  of  the  Ter- 
ritory; not  having  fulfilled  any  of  all  their  dreadful  threatenings, 
except  to  murder  One  unarmed  man;  &  to  commit  some  Roberies 
&  waste  of  propperty  upon  defenceless  families,  unfortunately  in 
their  power.  We  learn  by  their  papers  they  boast  of  a  great  vic- 
tory over  the  Abolitionists;  &  well  they  may.  Free-State  men 
have  only  hereafter  to  retain  the  footing  they  have  gained;  and 
Kansas  is  free.  Yesterday  the  people  passed  uppon  the  Free-State 
constitution.  The  result,  though  not  yet  known,  no  one  doubts.  One 
little  circumstance  connected  with  our  own  number  showing  a  little 
of  the  true  character  of  those  invaders :  On  our  way  about  Three 
Miles  from  Lawrence  we  had  to  pass  a  bridge  (with  our  Arms  & 
Amunition)  of  which  the  invaders  held  possession;  but  as  the  Five 
had  each  a  Gun,  with  Two  large  Revolvers  in  a  Belt  (exposed  to 
view)  with  a  Third  in  his  Pocket;  &  as  we  moved  directly  on  to  the 


120  JOHN  BROWN 

Bridge  without  making  any  halt,  they  for  some  reason  suffered 
us  to  pass  without  interruption ;  notwithstanding  there  were  some 
Fifteen  to  Twenty-five  (as  variously  reported)  stationed  in  a  Log- 
House  at  one  end  of  the  Bridge.  We  could  not  count  them.  A  Boy 
on  our  approach  ran  &  gave  them  notice.  Five  others  of  our  Com- 
pany, well  armed;  who  followed  us  some  Miles  behind,  met  with 
equally  civil  treatment  the  same  day.  After  we  left  to  go  to  Law- 
rence until  we  returned  when  disbanded ;  I  did  not  see  the  least  sign 
of  cowardice  or  want  of  self-possession  exhibited  by  any  volunteer 
of  the  Eleven  companies  who  constituted  the  Free-State  force  &  I 
never  expect  again  to  see  an  equal  number  of  such  well-behaved, 
cool,  determined  men;  fully  as  I  believe  sustaining  the  high  char- 
acter of  the  Revolutionary  Fathers;  but  enough  of  this  as  we  intend 
to  send  you  a  paper  giving  a  more  full  account  of  the  affair.  We 
have  cause  for  gratitude  in  that  we  all  returned  safe,  &  well,  with 
the  exception  of  hard  Colds;  and  found  those  left  behind  rather 
improving."  ^^ 

It  would  be  hard  to  add  anything  to  this  admirable  summary 
of  the  close  of  the  Wakarusa  "  war."  That  it  was  temperate 
and  did  not  overemphasize  the  part  played  by  the  Missouri- 
ans  appears  from  the  opinion  of  John  Sherman  and  William 
A.  Howard,  of  the  Howard  Committee,  who  affirmed  that: 

"Among  the  many  acts  of  lawless  violence  which  it  has  been  the 
duty  of  your  Committee  to  investigate,  this  invasion  of  Lawrence  is 
the  most  defenceless.  A  comparison  of  the  facts  proven  with  the 
official  statements  of  the  officers  of  the  government  will  show  how 
groundless  were  the  pretexts  which  gave  rise  to  it.  A  community  in 
which  no  crime  had  been  committed  by  any  of  its  members,  against 
none  of  whom  had  a  warrant  been  issued  or  a  complaint  made,  who 
had  resisted  no  process  in  the  hands  of  a  real  or  pretended  officer, 
was  threatened  with  destruction  in  the  name  of  'law  and  order,' 
and  that,  too,  by  men  who  marched  from  a  neighboring  State  with 
arms  obtained  by  force  and  who  at  every  stage  of  their  progress  vio- 
lated many  laws,  and  among  others  the  Constitution  of  the  United 
States. 

"The  chief  guilt  must  rest  on  Samuel  J.  Jones.  His  character  is 
illustrated  by  his  language  at  Lecompton,  when  peace  was  made. 
He  said  Major  Clark  and  Burns  both  claimed  the  credit  of  killing 
that  damned  abolitionist,  (Barber)  and  he  did  n't  know  which  ought 
to  have  it.  If  Shannon  hadn't  been  a  damned  old  fool,  peace  would 
never  have  been  declared.  He  would  have  wiped  Lawrence  out. 
He  had  men  and  means  enough  to  do  it."^^ 

John  Brown's  company  comprised  others  than  himself  and 
his  four  sons,  Frederick,  Owen,  Salmon  and  John,  Jr.,  and  was 


THE  CAPTAIN  OF  THE  LIBERTY  GUARDS     121 

well  named  the  "Liberty  Guards."  He  himself  received  here 
for  the  first  time  the  historic  title  of  Captain,  and  the  original 
muster  roll  of  his  company,  still  preserved,  gives  the  facts  as 
to  its  composition  and  service :  ^* 

"Muster  Roll  of  Capt.  John  Brown's  Company  in  the  Fifth  Regi- 
ment, First  Brigade  of  Kansas  Volunteers,  commanded  by  Col. 
Geo.  W.  Smith,  called  into  the  service  of  the  people  of  Kansas  to 
defend  the  City  of  Lawrence,  in  the  Territory  of  Kansas  from 
threatened  demolition  by  foreign  invaders.  Enrolled  at  Osawatomie 
K.  T.  Called  into  the  service  from  the  27th  day  of  November,  A.  D. 
1855,  when  mustered,  to  the  12  th  day  of  December,  when  discharged. 
Service,  16  days.  Miles  travelled  each  way,  50.  Allowance  to  each 
for  use  of  horse  $24. 

"  Remark  —  One  keg  of  powder  and  eight  pounds  of  lead  were 
furnished  by  William  Partridge  and  were  used  in  the  service." 

Age 
John  Brown  sen.  Capt.  55 

Wm.  W.  Up  De  Graff  ist     Lieut.  34 

Henry  H.  Williams  2nd        "  27 

Jas.  J.  Holbrook  3rd         "  23 

Ephraim  Reynolds  1st      Sergt.  25 

R.  W.  Wood  2nd        "  20 

Frederic  Brown  3rd        "  25 

JohnYelton  4th        "  26 

Henry  Alderman  ist     Corp  55 

H.  Harrison  Up  De  Graff    2nd    Corp  23 

Dan'l  W.  CoUis  3rd    Corp  27 

Wm.  Partridge  4th       "  ^  32 

Amos  D  Alderman  20 

Owen  Brown  31 

Salmon  Brown  19 

John  Brown,  jr.  34 

Francis  Brennen  29 

Wm.  W.  Coine  19 

Benj.  L.  Cochren  24 

Jeremiah  Harrison  22 

This  muster  roll  was  certified  to  as  correct  "on  honor"  by 
George  W.  Smith,  Colonel  commanding  the  Fifth  Regiment 
Kansas  Volunteers,  but  it  will  be  noted  that  it  gives  the  Lib- 
erty Guards  credit  for  at  least  nine  days  more  service  than 
they  were  entitled  to  according  to  John  Brown's  own  story. 
So  does  the  honorable  discharge  of  John  Brown,  Jr.,  which 
was  countersigned  not  only  by  Colonel  Smith,  but  also  by 
J.  H.  Lane  as  General,  First  Brigade,  Kansas  Volunteers,  and 


122  JOHN  BROWN 

"C.  Robinson,  Maj.  Gen'l.,"  in  that  it  dates  his  service  from 
November  27.  This  apparently  was  the  date  of  entry  into 
service  fixed  for  all  the  volunteers  of  this  quaint  "army," 
with  its  elaborate  organization  and  high  titles.  ^^  As  a  matter 
of  fact,  the  active  service  of  the  Liberty  Guards  comprised 
only  Friday  the  7th  and  Saturday  the  8th  of  December,  dur- 
ing which  time  the  peace  negotiations  were  under  way.  They 
remained  in  Lawrence  until  the  I2th  or  later,  when  the  other 
companies  also  left  for  their  homes. 

In  his  narrative  of  what  happened  during  his  brief  partici- 
pation in  the  siege  of  Lawrence,  Brown  slurs  over  his  own 
part  in  the  proceedings,  which  was  sufficiently  conspicuous 
to  make  him  well  known  to  all  who  were  in  the  threatened 
town.  "I  did  not  see  Brown's  entry  into  Lawrence,"  writes 
R.  G.  Elliott,  at  the  time  an  editor  of  the  Kansas  Free  State, 
"which  was  the  first  introduction  of  the  mysterious  stranger 
into  the  Kansas  drama,  but  I  do  know  that  his  grim  visage, 
his  bold  announcements,  with  the  patriarchal  organization 
of  his  company,  gave  him  at  once  welcome  entrance  into  the 
military  counsels  of  the  defenders,  and  lightened  up  the  gloom 
of  the  besieged  in  their  darkest  hour."  ^^  Here  in  Kansas,  too, 
John  Brown  made  upon  every  one  the  impression  of  age, 
owing  to  the  stoop  of  his  shoulders,  the  measured  step,  the 
earnestness  and  impressiveness  of  his  manner,  and  other 
signs  of  seniority  and  natural  leadership,  even  though  there 
was  in  his  endurance,  the  resoluteness  of  his  movements,  and 
the  promptness  of  his  speech,  nothing  approaching  senility.* 
The  title  of  captain  fitted  him  readily;  where  he  was,  he  led. 
And  so  at  Lawrence,  —  hardly  arrived,  he  was  at  the  fortifi- 
cations. "There,"  reports  an  eye-witness,  James  F.  Legate,  he 
"walked  quietly  from  fort  to  fort  and  talked  to  the  men  sta- 
tioned there,  saying  to  each  that  it  was  nothing  to  die  if  their 
lives  had  served  some  good  purpose,  and  that  no  purpose  could 
be  higher  or  better  than  that  which  called  us  to  surrender 
life,  if  need  be,  to  repel  such  an  invasion.""  Even  though 
the  discussion  of  peace  was  on,  he  suggested  the  gathering  of 
pitchforks  for  use  in  repelling  a  possible  charge,  ^s  The  peace 
itself  produced  in  him  only  anger,  when  first  he  heard  of  it. 

^^  *  The  Lawrence  Herald  0/  Freedom  reported  the  arrival  on  December  7  of 
"Mr.  John  Brown,  an  aged  gentleman  from  Essex  County,  N.  Y." 


THE  CAPTAIN  OF  THE  LIBERTY  GUARDS     123 

It  was  not  only,  as  he  wrote  to  Orson  Day  on  reaching  home, 
that  there  was  "a  good  deal  of  trickery  on  the  one  side  and 
of  cowardice,  folly,  ^'drunkenness  on  the  other;"  =9  there  was 
suppression  of  facts  as  well.  For  the  actual  terms  of  peace, 
involving  as  they  did  a  compromise,  were  at  first  concealed 
by  the  leaders  in  expectation  of  dissatisfaction.  As  a  matter 
of  fact,  the  agreement  pledged  the  Free  State  men  to  "aid  in 
the  execution  of  the  laws  when  called  upon  by  proper  author- 
ity;" its  equivocal  concluding  sentence  read:  "We  wish  it 
understood,  that  we  do  not  herein  express  any  opinion  as  to 
the  validity  of  the  enactments  of  the  Territorial  Legislature." 
This  was  signed  on  December  8. 

An  open-air  meeting  was  held  on  Saturday  afternoon  about 
the  still  unfinished  Free  State  Hotel,  where  a  box  outside  the 
door  served  as  a  platform  and  door-sill,  there  being  no  steps 
but  planks  leading  to  the  ground.  Shannon,  Robinson  and 
Lane,  fresh  from  signing  the  treaty,  harangued  the  crowd. 
What  the  terms  of  the  treaty  were,  they  would  tell  no  one 
that  day.  Shannon  expressed  his  satisfaction  at  the  discovery 
that  he  had  misunderstood  the  people  of  Lawrence,  that  they 
were  really  estimable  and  orderly  persons.  He  hoped  now  to 
preserve  order  and  get  out  of  the  Territory  the  Missourians, 
who,  he  remarked,  were  there  of  their  own  accord.  Lane's 
eloquence  evoked  cheers;  he  declared  that  "any  man  who 
would  desert  Lawrence  until  the  invaders  below  had  left  the 
Territory,  was  a  coward."  Governor  Robinson  was  pacific,  dis- 
creet and  brief.  He  stated,  according  to  William  Phillips,  the 
Tribune's  correspondent,  that  "they  had  taken  an  honorable 
position." '"  But  the  crowd  was  not  so  sure  of  that.  A  rumor 
had  been  circulating  that  the  treaty  was  in  reality  a  complete 
surrender  on  the  part  of  Robinson  and  Lane,  and  an  accept- 
ance of  the  hated  pro-slavery  laws.  John  Brown,  boiling  over 
with  anger,  mounted  the  shaky  platform  and  addressed  the 
audience  when  Robinson  had  finished.  He  declared  that 
Lawrence  had  been  betrayed,  and  told  his  hearers  that  they 
should  make  a  night  attack  upon  the  pro-slavery  forces  and 
drive  them  out  of  the  Territory.  "I  am  an  Abolitionist,"  he 
said,  "dyed  in  the  wool,"  and  then  he  offered  to  be  one  of  ten 
men  to  make  a  night  attack  upon  the  Border  Ruffian  camp. 
Armed  and  with  lanterns,  his  plan  was  to  string  his  men  along 


124  JOHN  BROWN 

the  camp  far  apart.  At  a  given  signal  in  the  early  morning 
hours,  they  were  to  shout  and  fire  on  the  slumbering  enemy. 
"And  I  do  believe,"  declared  John  Brown  in  telling  of  it, 
"that  the  whole  lot  would  have  run."  "  Lane,  too,  had  been 
secretly  in  favor  of  an  attack,  but  peace  councils  prevailed.'^ 
John  Brown  was  pulled  down  by  friends  and  foes  from  the 
improvised  rostrum,  and,  according  to  one  responsible  witness, 
it  was  Robinson  who  stamped  out  the  incipient  mutiny  by 
calmly  assuring  the  crowd  that  the  unpublished  treaty  was  a 
triumph  of  diplomacy." 

That  same  evening.  Shannon,  Lane  and  Robinson  spoke  to 
thirteen  pro-slavery  captains  at  Franklin,  who  grumblingly 
accepted  the  treaty  and  gave  their  word  that  they  would 
endeavor  to  induce  the  Missourians  to  return  quietly  to  their 
homes. '^  But  the  Missouri  leaders  were  not  all  pleased  at 
the  outcome.  General  Stringfellow  declared,  in  a  speech  in  the 
camp  near  Lecompton,  that  "Shannon  has  played  us  false; 
the  Yankees  have  tricked  us."  Sheriff  Jones's  regret  that 
Shannon  did  not  wipe  out  Lawrence  has  already  been  recorded. 
Atchison  was  for  peace,  —  there  are  doubts  if  he  really  was 
a  fighting  man  when  it  came  to  the  point.  "If  you  attack 
Lawrence  now,"  he  declared,  "you  attack  it  as  a  mob,  and 
what  would  be  the  result?  You  would  cause  the  election 
of  an  Abolition  President  and  the  ruin  of  the  Democratic 
party."  '*  If  there  was  some  grumbling  among  the  rank  and 
file  at  Shannon's  ordering  them  to  return  to  their  homes,  the 
cold  storm  of  that  Saturday  night  helped  on  the  dissolution 
of  the  pro-slavery  forces.  Many  left  on  Monday  morning, 
worn,  sleepless  and  frozen.  Moreover,  the  whiskey  had  given 
out,  and  this,  with  the  fear  of  a  possible  Free  State  attack, 
sent  more  and  more  home,  until  on  Tuesday  only  a  few  par- 
ties remained.  Finally,  these  few  gave  in  to  the  inevitable  and 
departed,  says  Phillips,  "cursing  Shannon  and  the  'cunning 
Abolitionists.' "  ^^ 

As  for  Shannon,  the  tricky  Robinson  had  again  taken  ad- 
vantage of  his  weakness  by  inviting  him  and  Sheriff  Jones 
to  a  peace  gathering  in  the  Free  State  Hotel  on  Sunday  even- 
ing, December  9,  despite  protests  from  Lane  and  others  that 
no  such  enemy  of  Lawrence  as  Jones  should  be  given  the 
right  hand  of  fellowship.   In  the  course  of  the  evening,  when 


THE  CAPTAIN  OF  THE  LIBERTY  GUARDS     125 

the  Governor  was  thoroughly  enjoying  himself,  Robinson 
rushed  up  to  him  and  informed  him  that  the  Missourians 
had  left  the  Wakarusa  and  were  marching  on  Lawrence.  He 
insisted  that  the  Governor  should  at  once  sign  a  paper  author- 
izing him  and  Lane  to  defend  the  town.  The  Governor,  after 
a  little  urging,  put  his  name  to  the  following  document: 

To  C.  Robinson  and  J.  H.  Lane,  commanders  of  the  Enrolled 
Citizens  of  Lawrence: 

You  are  hereby  authorized  and  directed  to  take  such  measures 
and  use  the  enrolled  forces  under  your  command  in  such  manner, 
for  the  preservation  of  the  peace  and  the  protection  of  the  persons 
and  property  of  the  people  of  Lawrence  and  its  vicinity,  as  in  your 
judgment  shall  best  secure  that  end. 

Wilson  Shannon. 

Lawrence,  Dec.  9,  1855. 

His  Excellency  thereupon  returned  to  the  delights  of  the 
reception  and,  says  Phillips,  "on  that  eventful  Sunday,  if 
Governors  ever  get  drunk,  his  supreme  highness,  Wilson  the 
First,  got  superlatively  tipsy."  '' 

When  he  came  to  his  senses  and  discovered  that  he  had 
given  legal  authority  to  arm  and  fight  to  the  leaders  of  that 
very  mob  to  suppress  which  he  had  called  out  the  Territorial 
militia,  he  was  properly  chagrined.  The  force  which  he  had 
denounced  for  assembling  to  upset  the  laws  was  now  duly 
empowered  by  him  to  act  at  its  own  discretion  without  limit 
of  time.  Naturally,  the  Governor  was  indignant.  In  a  long 
letter  to  the  Kansas  correspondent  of  the  New  York  Herald, 
dated  December  25,  1855,  he  sought  to  justify  himself  and 
explain  his  predicament,  saying :  '* 

"...  amid  an  excited  throng,  in  a  small  and  crowded  apartment, 
and  without  any  critical  examination  of  the  paper  which  Dr.  Rob- 
inson had  just  written,  I  signed  it;  but  it  was  distinctly  understood 
that  it  had  no  application  to  anything  but  the  threatened  attack 
on  Lawrence  that  night.  ...  It  did  not  for  a  moment  occur  to  me 
that  this  pretended  attack  upon  the  town  was  but  a  device  to  obtain 
from  me  a  paper  which  might  be  used  to  my  prejudice.  I  supposed 
at  the  time  that  I  was  surrounded  by  gentlemen  and  by  grateful 
hearts,  and  not  by  tricksters,  who,  with  fraudulent  representations, 
were  seeking  to  obtain  an  advantage  over  me.  I  was  thelast  man 
on  the  globe  who  deserved  such  treatment  from  the  citizens  of 
Lawrence." 


126  JOHN  BROWN 

It  is  evident  that  the  Governor  had  reason  for  his  anger. 
Dr.  Robinson's  successful  stratagem  can  best  be  justified  by 
that  familiar  theory  that  everything  is  permissible  in  war. 
This  has  excused  many  a  more  heinous  crime ;  but  Shannon 
could  properly  have  urged  that,  as  peace  had  been  signed,  this 
trick  was  indefensible  even  as  a  war  measure. 

The  treaty  was,  from  the  beginning,  an  ill-fated  document, 
and  met  the  destiny  double-dealing  compromises  deserve. 
As  events  turned  out,  the  Missourians  had  their  revenge  on 
Lawrence  and  Robinson  within  seven  months.  Though  he 
afterwards  became  a  respected  citizen  of  Lawrence,  Shannon 
was,  until  his  removal  in  1856,  despised  by  its  residents  and 
berated  by  the  pro-slavery  men  in  and  out  of  the  Territory, 
who  sought  to  saddle  upon  him  the  blame  for  their  undeniable 
defeat.  "The  discomfited  and  lop-eared  invaders,"  wrote 
Horace  Greeley  in  the  Tribune  of  December  25,  in  character- 
istic style,  "pretend  that  against  their  wish  they  were  kept 
from  fighting  by  the  pusillanimity  of  Gov.  Shannon."  Thus 
ended  the  Wakarusa  "war."  It  had  cost  but  one  life,  that  of 
Barber,  the  unexpected  sight  of  whose  dead  body  in  the  Free 
State  Hotel  had  done  much  to  make  Shannon  see  some  justice 
in  the  Free  Soil  cause.  Barber  had  been  shot  from  behind, 
probably  by  the  United  States  Indian  agent.  Major  George 
E.  Clarke,  for  the  sole  reason  that  he  had  been  visiting  Law- 
rence. "  I  have  sent  another  of  those  damned  Abolitionists  to 
his  winter  quarters,"  boasted  Clarke.  But  Colonel  James  N. 
Burns,  of  Missouri,  disputed  his  right  to  this  honor,  and,  since 
both  fired  at  the  same  moment,  no  one  has  ever  been  able  to 
decide  to  whom  Barber  owed  his  death  wound. ^* 

The  night  after  his  abruptly  ended  speech  John  Brown 
passed  with  James  F.  Legate.  He  asked  Legate  for  minute 
particulars  of  the  latter's  ten  years  of  experience  in  the  South, 
so  far  as  it  related  to  the  slaves,  asking  especially  if  they 
had  any  attachment  for  their  masters  and  would  fight  for 
liberty.  Then  they  had  an  argument  as  to  the  nature  of 
prayer;  it  ended  by  Brown's  praying  for  power  to  repel  the 
slaveholders,  the  enemies  of  God,  and  for  freedom  all  over 
the  earth." 

On  December  14,  Brown,  his  four  sons  and  their  half- 
starved  horse,  which  dragged  the  heavily  laden  wagon,  were 


THE  CAPTAIN  OF  THE  LIBERTY  GUARDS     127 

back  and  settled  at  Brown's  Station,  apparently  reconciled 
to  the  treaty,  for  on  that  date  he  wrote  to  Orson  Day  of  his 
over-sanguine  belief  that  "the  Territory  is  now  entirely  in 
the  power  of  the  Free  State  men,"  and  of  his  confident  expec- 
tation that  the  "Missourians  will  give  up  all  further  hope  of 
making  Kansas  a  Slave  State."  *^ 

The  result  of  the  vote  on  the  Free  State  Constitution,  on 
December  15,  further  helped  to  make  John  Brown  contented 
with  the  Shannon  compromise.  Apparently  there  was  a^peace- 
ful  winter  before  them,  and  this  proved  to  be  the  case.  Its 
very  inclemency  made  further  hostile  operations  impossible, 
and  left  the  Kansans  free  to  keep  body  and  soul  together  as 
best  they  could.  John  Brown  himself  utilized  the  opportunity 
to  go  a  number  of  times  into  the  enemy's  country  in  January 
in  search  of  supplies,  without  meeting  with  any  unpleasant 
experiences.  On  January  i,  1856,  he  wrote  from  West  Point, 
Missouri,  "  In  this  part  of  the  State  there  seems  to  be  but  little 
feeling  on  the  slave  question."  *^  As  the  temperature  had 
ranged  from  ten  to  twenty-eight  degrees  below  zero  in  the 
week  previous  to  his  writing,  and  there  were  in  places  ten 
inches  of  snow  on  the  ground,  it  is  obvious  that  the  need  of 
pork  and  flour  which  made  Brown  venture  forth  must  have 
been  pressing.  By  the  4th  he  was  back  in  Osawatomie  again, 
for  on  the  5  th  he  was  appointed  chairman  of  a  convention 
in  Osawatomie,  called  for  the  purpose  of  nominating  State 
officers.  His  son,  John  Brown,  Jr.,  was  duly  nominated  for 
the  Legislature,  and,  so  Henry  Thompson  reported  the  next 
day,  "the  meeting  went  off  without  any  excitement  and  to 
our  satisfaction."  ^'  This  was  but  an  index  of  the  place  the 
Browns  had  already  made  for  themselves,  a  recognition  of 
their  dominating  characters.  Further  proof  of  this  is  to  be 
found  in  a  letter  from  Mrs.  John  Brown,  Jr.,  to  her  mother-in- 
law.  Writing  on  January  6,  1856,  she  says:  "You  need  not  in 
the  least  feel  uneasy  about  your  husband,  he  seems  to  enjoy 
life  well,  and  I  believe  he  is  now  situated  so  as  to  do  a  great 
deal  of  good ;  he  certainly  seems  to  be  a  man  here  who  exhibits 
a  great  amount  of  influence  and  is  considered  one  of  the  most 
leading  and  influential  minds  about  here.  .  .  .  Our  men  have 
so  much  war  and  elections  to  attend  to  that  it  seems  as  though 
we  were  a  great  while  getting  into  a  house."  " 


128  JOHN  BROWN 

On  the  8th  of  January,  John  Brown  went  back  to  Missouri 
for  more  provisions,  accompanied  by  Salmon  and  driving  the 
faithful  horse  for  the  last  time,  since  that  hard-worked  ani- 
mal must  needs  be  sold  to  a  pro-slavery  master,  that  the  pro- 
visions might  be  obtained  for  the  oxen  to  bring  home,  and  to 
replace  moneys  belonging  to  S.  L.  Adair  used  by  John  Brown 
on  the  road  to  Kansas.  "  By  means  of  the  sale  of  our  Horse 
and  Waggon:  our  present  wants  are  tolerably  well  met;  so 
that  if  health  is  continued  to  us  we  shall  not  probably  suffer 
much,"  wrote  Brown  to  his  wife  on  February  i,  on  his  return 
from  a  third  trip  to  Missouri.  He  reported  also  that  the 
weather  continued  very  severe:  "It  is  now  nearly  Six  Weeks 
that  the  Snow  has  been  almost  constantly  driven  (like  dry 
sand)  by  the  fierce  Winds  of  Kansas."  There  were  also  serious 
alarms  of  war:  "We  have  just  learned  of  some  new;  and  shock- 
ing outrages  at  Leavenworth :  and  that  the  Free-State  people 
there  have  fled  to  Lawrence:  which  place  is  again  threatend 
with  an  attack.  Should  that  take  place  we  may  soon  again 
be  called  upon  to  '  buckle  on  our  armor ; '  which  by  the  help 
of  God  we  will  do :  when  I  suppose  Henry,  &  Oliver  will  have 
a  chance."  *^  He  added,  however,  that  in  his  judgment  there 
would  be  no  general  disturbance  until  warmer  weather.  In 
this  view  he  was  as  correct  as  he  had  previously  been  wrong 
in  estimating  the  results  of  the  Wakarusa  "war." 

The  Leavenworth  troubles,  to  which  he  referred,  were  so 
serious  as  to  be  taken  on  both  sides  as  ending  the  truce  signed 
by  Shannon.  They  grew  out  of  the  election,  on  January  15, 
of  members  of  the  Free  Soil  Legislature  and  the  State  officers 
under  the  Topeka  Constitution.  Just  as  the  Missourians  had 
refrained  from  interfering  with  the  Free  State  voting  in  the 
adoption  of  the  Constitution,  they  now  permitted  the  January 
15  election  to  pass  off  in  peace,  except  at  Leavenworth,  where 
the  pro-slavery  mayor  forbade  the  holding  of  the  election.  It 
took  place  clandestinely  and  was  then  adjourned  to  Easton, 
twelve  miles  away,  where  it  was  again  held  on  the  17th,  de- 
spite the  disarming  and  driving  away  of  some  of  the  Free  State 
voters.  That  night  there  was  severe  fighting  between  the  two 
sides,  in  which  the  pro-slavery  men  lost  one  killed  and  two 
wounded,  while  two  of  the  Free  Soilerswere  injured.  Later, 
the  pro-slavery  forces,  which  had  been  reinforced  by  a  militia 


THE  CAPTAIN  OF  THE  LIBERTY  GUARDS     129 

company,  the  Kickapoo  Rangers,  captured  Captain  Reese  P. 
Brown,  the  leader  of  the  Free  State  men,  as  he  was  returning  to 
Leavenworth.  Him  the  Rangers  mortally  wounded  the  next 
day,  when  he  was  unarmed  and  defenceless."  "These  men, 
or  rather  demons,"  reported  Phillips  to  the  Tribune,  "rushed 
around  Brown  and  literally  hacked  him  to  death  with  their 
hatchets."  Not  an  effort  was  made  to  punish  the  murderers, 
though  they  were  well  known  to  the  Territorial  authorities. 
Some  of  the  pro-slavery  newspapers,  like  Stringfellow's  Squat- 
ter Sovereign,  upheld  the  deed,  that  journal  calling  for  "War! 
War!!"  *'  The  'Leacveniworth  Herald  justified  the  murder  and 
gave  notice  to  the  Free  State  men  that:  "These  higher-law 
men  will  not  be  permitted  longer  to  carry  on  their  illegal  and 
high-handed  proceedings.  The  good  sense  of  the  people  is 
frowning  it  down.  And  if  it  cannot  be  in  one  way  it  will  in 
another."  ^*  The  Kansas  Pioneer  of  Kickapoo  was  an  acces- 
sory to  Brown's  murder  before  the  fact,  for  on  the  morning 
of  the  crime  it  had  published  this  appeal:  "Sound  the  bugle 
of  war  over  the  length  and  breadth  of  the  land  and  leave 
not  an  Abolitionist  in  the  Territory  to  relate  their  treach- 
erous and  contaminating  deeds.  Strike  your  piercing  rifle 
balls  and  your  glittering  steel  to  their  black  and  poisonous 
hearts."  « 

But  the  black-hearted  Free  Soilers  voted  nevertheless,  cast- 
ing, in  the  entire  Territory,  1628  ballots  for  Mark  W.  Dela- 
hay,  the  candidate  for  delegate  to  Congress  who  had  just 
previously,  on  December  22,  1855,  had  a  taste  of  Missouri 
intolerance,  when  the  printing-presses  of  his  Leavenworth 
newspaper,  the  Territorial  Register,  were  thrown  into  the  Mis- 
souri River  because  of  the  Free  Soil  sentiments  of  its  editor.'" 
For  Charles  Robinson  as  Governor  there  were  cast  1296  votes. 
This  result  increased  the  anger  of  the  pro-slavery  men.  On  that 
day  of  balloting.  Sheriff  Jones  wrote  to  Robinson  and  Lane, 
asking  whether  they  had  or  had  not  pledged  themselves  to  aid 
him  with  a  posse  in  serving  a  writ.  Their  answer  was  only 
that  they  would  make  no  "further  resistance  to  the  arrest 
by  you  of  one  of  the  rescuers  of  Branson,  ...  as  we  desire 
to  test  the  validity  of  the  enactments  of  the  body  that  met 
at  the  Mission,  calling  themselves  the  Kansas  Legislature,  by 
an  appeal  to  the  Supreme  Court  of  the  United  States."  " 


I30  JOHN  BROWN 

Tones  and  the  Border  Ruffians  thereupon  insisted  that  the 
Free  State  men  had  violated  the  truce  of  Lawrence,  and 
deemed  themselves  no  longer  bound  by  it.  By  February  4, 
ex-Senator  Atchison  was  again  threatening  the  sword  of  ex- 
termination, or  rather  the  bowie-knife:  "Send  your  young 
men  .  .  .  drive  them  [the  AboHtionists]  out.  .  .  .  Get  ready, 
arm  yourselves;  for  if  they  abolitionize  Kansas  you  lose 
$100,000,000  of  your  property.  I  am  satisfied  I  can  justify 
every  act  of  yours  before  God  and  a  jury,"  ^2  —  words  that 
could  not  have  gone  unread  at  Brown's  Station,  where  they 
received  and  pored  over  "Douglas  newspapers"  as  well  as 
Free  Soil  ones.  The  election  had  passed  off  quietly  enough 
at  Osawatomie,  John  Brown,  Jr.,  being  duly  elected  to  the 
Legislature,  but  shortly  afterwards  the  minute-men  led  in  the 
expulsion  of  a  claim- jumper,  as  a  result  of  a  settlers'  meet- 
ing held  on  January  24  to  consider  the  case.  Henry  Thompson, 
John  Brown,  Jr.,  and  his  brothers  Oliver  and  Frederick  were 
the  committee  which,  well  armed,  knocked  the  man's  door  in 
and  threw  his  belongings  out.  Henry  Thompson's  part  was 
watching,  with  a  loaded  revolver  in  his  hand,  every  action  of 
the  claim-jumper  until  he  disappeared  in  the  distance,  vowing 
vengeance  on  each  and  every  Brown." 

Itwas  also  on  January  24,  that  President  Pierce  sentaspecial 
message  to  Congress  which  aroused  the  ire  of  every  Free  State 
settler,  and  of  every  anti-slavery  man  the  country  over.  In  it, 
yielding  to  the  influence  of  Jefferson  Davis,  and  of  Governor 
Shannon,  who  was  then  in  Washington,  he  squarely  took  the 
side  of  the  South,  proclaiming  the  pro-slavery  Shawnee  Legis- 
lature legal,  whatever  election  frauds  might  have  been  com- 
mitted, and  denouncing  the  acts  of  the  Free  State  men  as 
without  law  and  revolutionary  in  character,  "avowedly  so 
in  motive,"  which  would  become  "treasonable  insurrection" 
if  they  went  to  the  "length  of  organized  resistance  by  force  to 
the  fundamental  or  any  other  Federal  law,  and  to  the  author- 
ity of  the  general  government."  On  February  11  the  Presi- 
dent went  even  further,  and  issued  a  proclamation  which  de- 
prived the  Free  State  forces  of  all  hope  of  any  aid  from  the 
Federal  Government.  It  placed  the  entire  authority  and  power 
of  the  United  States  on  the  side  of  pro-slavery  men,  and  of  all 
those  persons  who  opposed  the  Topeka  movement.    While 


THE  CAPTAIN  OF  THE  LIBERTY  GUARDS     131 

condemning  the  lawless  acts  of  both  sides,  he  placed  the  Fort 
Riley  and  Fort  Leavenworth  troops  at  Shannon's  behest, 
except  that  he  was  cautioned  not  to  call  upon  them  unless  it 
was  absolutely  necessary  to  do  so  to  enforce  the  laws  and  keep 
peace;  even  then  this  proclamation  must  be  read  aloud  before 
the  soldiers  acted.  Naturally,  the  South  rejoiced  and  the 
hearts  of  the  defenders  of  Lawrence  were  downcast.  The 
Squatter  Sovereign  was  emboldened  on  February  20  to  say: 
"In  our  opinion  the  only  effectual  way  to  correct  the  evils 
that  now  exist  is  to  hang  up  to  the  nearest  tree  the  very  last 
traitor  who  was  instrumental  in  getting  up,  or  participating 
in,  the  celebrated  Topeka  Convention." 

John  Brown  had  anticipated  this  action  of  Pierce's,  and  his 
feelings  sought  relief  on  the  same  day  in  the  following  letter 
to  Joshua  R.  Giddings,  the  well-known  anti-slavery  Congress- 
man from  Ohio: 

OsAWATOMiE  Kansas  Territory  20th  Feby  1856 
Hon.  Joshua  R.  Giddings 

Washington,  D.  C. 
Dear  Sir, 

I  write  to  say  that  a  number  of  the  United  States  Soldiers  are 
quartered  in  this  vicinity  for  the  ostensible  purpose  of  removing 
intruders  from  certain  Indian  Lands.  It  is,  however,  believed  that 
the  Administration  has  no  thought  of  removing  the  Missourians 
from  the  Indian  Lands;  but  that  the  real  object  is  to  have  these 
men  in  readiness  to  act  in  the  enforcement  of  those  Hellish  enact- 
ments of  the  (so  called)  Kansas  Legislature;  absolutely  abominated 
by  a  great  majority  of  the  inhabitants  of  the  Territory;  and  spurned 
by  them  up  to  this  time.  I  confidently  believe  that  the  next  move- 
ment on  the  part  of  the  Administration  and  its  Proslavery  masters 
will  be  to  drive  the  people  here,  either  to  submit  to  those  Infernal 
enactments;  or  to  assume  what  will  be  termed  treasonable  grounds 
by  shooting  down  the  poor  soldiers  of  the  country  with  whom  they 
have  no  quarrel  whatever.  I  ask  in  the  name  of  Almighty  God;  I 
ask  in  the  name  of  our  venerated  fore-fathers;  I  ask  in  the  name  of 
all  that  good  or  true  men  ever  held  dear;  will  Congress  suffer  us  to 
be  driven  to  such  ' '  dire  extremities ' '  ?  Will  anything  be  done  ?  Please 
send  me  a  few  lines  at  this  place.  Long  acquaintance  with  your 
public  life,  and  a  slight  personal  acquaintance  incline  and  embolden 
me  to  make  this  appeal  to  yourself. 

"Everything  is  still  on  the  surface  here  just  now.  Circumstances, 
however,  are  of  a  most  suspicious  character. 

Very  Respectfully  yours, 

John  Brown." 


132  JOHN  BROWN 

Before  this  earnest  letter  was  far  on  its  way  there  came  an 
important  answer  to  its  appeal,  and  to  the  proclamation  of 
the  President,  in  the  organization  of  the  "National  Republi- 
can Party"  at  Pittsburgh,  February  22,  1856,  the  name  of 
Charles  Robinson  being  placed  on  its  National  Committee 
as  representative  of  Kansas,  on  the  motion  of  S.  N.  Wood, 
leader  of  the  Branson  rescuers,  who  was  present  as  a  delegate, 
On  account  of  the  terrible  weather  "  —  the  snow  was  often 
eighteen  inches  deep,  and  the  thermometer  as  low  as  twenty- 
seven  degrees  below  zero  —  the  mails  were  slow  in  leaving 
Kansas,  ^^  and  it  was  not  until  March  17  that  Mr.  Giddings 
assured  his  Osawatomie  correspondent: 

"...  you  need  have  no  fear  of  the  troops.  The  President  will 
never  dare  employ  the  troops  of  the  United  States  to  shoot  the  citi- 
zens of  Kansas.  The  death  of  the  first  man  by  the  troops  will  involve 
every  free  State  in  your  own  fate.  It  will  light  up  the  fires  of  civil 
war  throughout  the  North,  and  we  shall  stand  or  fall  with  you.  Such 
an  act  will  also  bring  the  President  so  deep  in  infamy  that  the  hand 
of  political  resurrection  will  never  reach  him.  .  .  ."" 

Governor  Shannon  returned  to  Kansas  on  March  5,  ex- 
ulting in  his  having  the  regular  troops  commanded  by  Colo- 
nel Sumner  under  him,  especially  as  that  excellent  officer  I 
had  refused  to  come  to  his  aid  during  the  Wakarusa  "war" 
without  express  authority  from  Washington.**  The  day  be- 
fore, on  March  4,  the  Free  State  Legislature  had  duly  as- 
sembled as  required  by  the  Topeka  Constitution,  without 
the  slightest  regard  for  Pierce's  message  or  proclamation." 
It  remained  in  session  only  eleven  days,  receiving  Governor 
Robinson's  inaugural  address,  electing  Governor  Lane  and 
ex-Governor  Reeder  Senators  of  the  United  States  in  the 
event  of  the  State's  being  admitted  to  the  Union,  preparing 
a  memorial  to  Congress  begging  that  admission,  and  receiv- 
ing the  report  of  the  Territorial  Executive  Committee,  headed 
by  Lane,  which  then  went  out  of  existence.  Adjournment 
was  on  March  15  until  July  4,  when  it  met  again,  only  to 
be  dispersed  by  Colonel  Sumner's  troopers.  John  Brown, 
Jr.,  was  in  attendance  at  the  session  in  March;  his  father 
recorded  this  in  a  letter  to  North  Elba  on  March  6,  in 
which  he  also  complained  of  the  lack  of  any  letters  or  news 
because  of  deep  snows  and  high  water,  so  that,  he  wrote,  "  we 


THE  CAPTAIN  OF  THE  LIBERTY  GUARDS     133 

have  no  idea  what  Congress  has  done  since  early  in  Jany:"  «» 
John  Brown,  Jr.,  did  not,  however,  arrive  in  Topeka,  with 
Henry  H.  Williams,  a  fellow  Representative,  until  the  morn- 
ing of  the  5th,  so  Mr.  Williams  wrote  on  the  7th  to  a  friend. 
His  letter  shows  that  there  was  considerable  trepidation 
among  the  arriving  delegates  in  view  of  Pierce's  position. 
"Shannon,"  he  wrote,  "is  at  the  Big  Springs  on  a  bender  I 
learn.  .  .  .  Mr.  Brown  has  been  put  on  a  committee  to  se- 
lect six  candidates  from  which  three  are  to  be  elected  Com- 
missioners to  revise  and  codify  the  laws  and  rules  of  prac- 
tise. .  .  ."" 

Only  fifteen  of  the  Topeka  legislators  signed  the  memorial 
to  Congress  asking  for  the  admission  of  Kansas  as  a  Free 
State  under  the  Topeka  Constitution,  a  copy  of  which  was 
attached  to  their  petition.  John  Brown,  Jr.,  was  of  course  one 
of  the  fifteen.^2  He  was  also  one  of  the  committee  of  three 
to  draft  resolutions  in  regard  to  the  murder  of  Captain  R.  P. 
Brown.  He  figured  also  as  a  member  of  the  standing  com- 
mittee on  vice  and  immorality,  and  presented  a  petition  from 
fifty-six  ladies  of  Topeka  praying  for  the  enactment  of  a  law 
prohibiting  the  manufacture  and  sale  of  liquor,'^  for  all  of 
which  legislative  service,  and  for  his  subsequent  partaking  in 
the  meetings  of  the  committee  to  select  the  commissioners 
to  codify  the  laws,^*  this  unfortunate  man  paid  a  terrible 
price  within  the  next  three  months.  Soon  after  John  Brown, 
Jr.,  returned,  his  father,  Frederick  and  Oliver  Brown,  and 
Henry  Thompson  went  on  a  surveying  tour  to  the  west  of 
their  settlement,  fixing  the  boundaries  of  their  lands  for  the 
Indian  neighbors  they  had  learned  to  respect  and  like.  The 
Ottawas,  having  found  that  many  whites  were  settling  on 
their  lands,  held  a  council  and  asked  the  Browns  to  trace  their 
southern  boundary.  "There  is  a  good  many  settlers  on  their 
lands,"  wrote  Henry  Thompson  to  his  wife,  "that  will  prob- 
ably have  to  leave  —  mostly  proslavery."  **  This  prospect 
could  hardly  have  raised  the  Browns  in  the  esteem  of  these 
neighbors  and  their  sympathizers.  This  surveying  party  was, 
however,  one  of  those  experiences  in  Kansas  which  made 
Henry  Thompson  write  to  his  wife  a  month  later,  April  16, 
when  the  outlook  for  the  Free  State  had  grown  gloomy 
enough : ."  It  is  a  great  trial  to  me  to  stay  away  from  you,  but 


134  JOHN  BROWN 

I  am  here,  and  feel  I  have  a  sacrifice  to  make,  a  duty  to  per- 
form. Can  I  leave  that  undone  and  feel  easy,  and  have  a 
conscience  void  of  offence?  Should  I  ever  feel  that  I  had  not 
put  my  hand  to  the  plough  and  looked  back?"*«  It  was 
not  only  the  cause  which  held  Mr.  Thompson  in  Kansas,  but 
his  very  great  regard  for  John  Brown.  Upon  Brown's  plans 
he  later  wrote  to  his  wife,  would  depend  his  own,  "until 
School  is  out."  " 

April  1 6  was  also  the  date  of  a  settlers'  meeting  of  momen- 
tous importance  to  Osawatomie.  It  attracted  widespread  at- 
tention elsewhere  in  the  Territory,  since  it  was  the  first  open 
defiance,  after  the  President's  proclamation,  by  any  body  of 
men,  of  the  Shawnee  Legislature's  laws.  The  call  for  the  gath- 
ering was  signed  by  twenty-three  citizens,  who  wished  to  con- 
fer as  to  the  proper  attitude  to  be  taken  toward  the  officials 
appointed  by  the  Shawnee  Legislature  to  assess  property  and 
collect  taxes.  Richard  Mendenhall  presided,  and  there  was 
full  discussion  of  the  situation.*'  No  less  ominous  a  figure 
than  the  Rev.  Martin  White  presented  the  Border  Ruffian 
side.  The  Rev.  S.  L.  Adair,  brother-in-law  of  John  Brown, 
recorded  many  years  later  that  "Martin  White  stood  up  for 
the  laws,  and  charged  rebellion  and  treason  on  all  who  de- 
clined to  obey  them.  Captain  John  Brown  was  for  regarding 
the  Legislature  as  a  fraud  and  their  laws  as  a  farce  and  their 
slave  code  as  wicked,  and  if  an  attempt  was  made  to  enforce 
them  to  resist  it."  Martin  White  put  it  differently.  "I  went," 
he  declared  in  a  speech  to  the  Kansas  Legislature  in  Febru- 
ary, 1857,  when  telling  of  his  experiences  with  the  Free  State 
men,  "to  one  of  their  meetings  and  tried  to  reason  with  them 
for  peace,  but  in  so  doing  I  insulted  the  hero  [John  Brown] 
of  the  murder  of  the  three  Doyles,  Wilkinson  and  Sherman, 
and  he  replied  to  me  and  said  that  he  was  an  'Abolitionist 
of  the  old  stock  —  was  dyed  in  the  wool  and  that  negroes 
were  his  brothers  and  equals  —  that  he  would  rather  see  this 
Union  dissolved  and  the  country  drenched  with  blood  than 
to  pay  taxes  to  the  amount  of  one-hundredth  part  of  a  mill.'" 
As  to  his  own  position,  Mr.  Adair  testified:  "I  had  said  but 
little.  But  the  question  was  put  directly:  was  I  ready  to  obey 
the  laws  or  to  take  up  arms  against  them?  I  replied  I  should 
not  regard  the  authority  of  those  laws,  yet  was  not  ready 


THE  CAPTAIN  OF  THE  LIBERTY  GUARDS     135 

to  take  up  arms  against  them  but  was  ready  if  necessary  to 
suffer  penalties."  This  was  the  spirit  in  which  the  Free  Soil 
pioneers  were  meeting  the  situation  created  by  Pierce's  sid- 
ing with  the  pro-slavery  forces.  They  were  willing  to  "suffer 
penalties"  for  their  beliefs  in  the  good  old  New  England 
fashion,  and  were  in  no  wise  to  be  swerved  from  their  sense  of 
duty  by  the  thundering  of  the  highest  authority  in  the  land. 
As  a  result  of  the  discussion  and  the  appointment  of  a  com- 
mittee of  five  to  prepare  them,  the  following  resolutions  were 
adopted  by  the  meeting: 

Resolved,  That  we  utterly  repudiate  the  authority  of  that  Legis- 
lature as  a  body,  emanating  not  from  the  people  of  Kansas,  but 
elected  and  forced  upon  us  by  a  foreign  vote,  and  that  the  officers 
appointed  by  the  same,  have  therefore  no  legal  power  to  act. 

Resolved ,  That  we  pledge  to  one  another  mutual  support  and  aid 
in  a  forcible  resistance  to  any  attempt  to  compel  us  with  obedience 
to  those  enactments,  let  that  attempt  come  from  whatever  source  it 
may,  and  that  if  men  appointed  by  that  legislature  to  the  office  of. 
Assessor  or  Sheriff,  shall  hereafter  attempt  to  assess  or  collect  taxes 
of  us,  they  will  do  so  at  the  peril  of  such  consequences  as  shall  be 
necessary  to  prevent  same. 

Resolved,  That  a  committee  of  three  be  appointed  to  inform  such 
officers  of  the  action  of  this  meeting  by  placing  in  their  hands  a  copy 
of  these  resolutions. 

Resolved,  That  a  copy  of  these  resolutions  with  the  proceedings 
of  this  meeting  be  furnished  to  the  several  papers  of  Kansas  with 
a  request  to  publish  the  same. 

Richard  Mendenhall,  Pres't.'"' 

Oscar  V.  Dayton,  Sec'ry. 

One  cannot  but  admire  the  courage  which  prompted  this 
spreading  abroad  of  the  decision  of  the  meeting.  It  was,  how- 
ever, soon  to  have  dire  results  for  the  little  settlement  itself. 

About  this  same  time  there  had  come  to  a  neighboring  pro- 
slavery  settlement  of  the  Shermans,  one  of  whom  was  known 
as  "Dutch  Henry,"  a  Judge,  Sterling  G.  Cato,  to  hold  court 
in  the  name  of  the  bogus  Territorial  Legislature.  The  Browns 
soon  heard  that  he  had  issued  warrants  for  their  arrest, 
either  because  of  their  participation  in  the  meeting  of  April 
16,  or  because  of  prior  dislike  of  them  as  Abolitionists.  John 
Brown  sent  to  the  court  his  son  Salmon  and  Henry  Thompson, 
"to  see,"  so  Salmon  Brown  affirms,  "if  Cato  would  arrest  us. 
We  went  over  ten  miles  afoot  and  stood  around  to  see  if  they 


136  JOHN   BROWN 

would  carry  out  their  threat.  I  did  not  like  it.  I  did  not  want 
to  be  in  the  middle  of  a  rescue.  That's  a  risky  situation.  I 
thought  father  was  wild  to  send  us,  but  he  wanted  to  hurry  up 
the  fight — always."  '"  This  ruse  having  failed,  Brown  himself 
went  with  his  armed  company  to  see  what  was  going  on.  The 
result  of  this  he  described  to  his  brother-in-law,  Adair: 

Brown's  Station,  22A  April,  1856. 
Dear  Brother  Adair  :  — 

.  .  .  Yesterday  we  went  to  Dutch  Henrys  to  see  how  things  were 
going  at  Court,  my  boys  turned  out  to  train  at  a  house  near  by. 
Many  of  the  volunteer  Co.  went  in  without  show  of  arms  to  hear 
the  charge  to  Grand  Jury.  The  Court  is  thoroughly  Bogus  but  the 
Judge  had  not  the  nerve  to  avow  it  openly.  He  was  questioned  on 
the  bench  in  writing  civilly  but  plainly  whether  he  intended  to 
enforce  the  Bogus  Laws  or  not ;  but  would  give  no  answer.  He  did 
not  even  mention  the  so  called  Kansas  Legislature  or  name  their 
acts  but  talked  of  our.  laws ;  it  was  easy  for  any  one  conversant  with 
law  matters  to  discover  what  code  he  was  charging  the  jury  under. 
He  evidently  felt  much  agitated  but  talked  a  good  deal  about  hav- 
ing criminals  punished,  &c.  After  hearing  the  charge  and  witnessing 
the  refusal  of  the  Judge  to  answer,  the  volunteers  met  under  arms 
passed  the  Osawatomie  Preamble  &  Resolutions,  every  man  voting 
aye.  They  also  appointed  a  committee  of  Three  to  wait  on  the 
Judge  at  once  with  a  coppy  in  full;  which  was  immediately  done. 
The  effect  of  that  I  have  not  yet  learned.  You  will  see  that  matters 
are  in  a  fair  way  of  comeing  to  a  head. 

Yours  sincerely  in  haste, 

John  Brown" 

James  Hanway,  a  leading  Free  State  settler,  has  recorded 
the  following  additional  details  of  this  occurrence : 

"John  Brown,  Jr.  left  the  court  room,  and  in  the  yard  he  called 
out  in  a  loud  voice:  'The  Pottawattomie  Rifle  Company  will  meet 
at  the  parade  ground,'  and  the  company  consisting  of  some  thirty 
men,  marched  off  to  meet  as  ordered.  There  was  not  a  disrespectful 
word  uttered,  nor  were  there  deadly  weapons  displayed  on  the  oc- 
casion —  there  were  doubtless  a  few  pocket  pistols,  but  they  were 
hid  from  sight.  Between  dark  and  daylight.  Judge  Cato  and  his 
officials  had  left;  they  journeyed  toward  Lecompton  in  Douglas 
County,  which  was  the  Bastile  of  the  proslavery  party.  This  was 
the  first  and  the  last  of  the  proslavery  court  holding  their  sessions 
in  this  section  of  the  country."  '^ 

This  incident,  Mr.  Hanway  added,  got  into  the  pro-slavery 
newspapers  in  a  magnified  and  distorted  form,  and  became 


THE  CAPTAIN  OF  THE  LIBERTY  GUARDS     137 

a  standing  charge  against  the  Free  State  party  of  Kansas  as 
one  of  their  heinous  crimes,  for  Judge  Cato  portrayed  him- 
self thereafter  as  a  court  compelled  to  flee  for  safety. 

About  the  time  that  Judge  Cato's  court  was  in  session  at 
Dutch  Henry's,  there  arrived  in  the  neighborhood  a  com- 
pany of  Southerners  who  had  come  to  the  Territory  from 
Georgia,  Alabama  and  South  Carolina,  in  order  to  make  it 
a  slave  State.  John  Brown  lost  no  time  in  discovering  their 
objects,  and  he  did  it  in  a  manner  which  has  become  famous 
in  Kansas.  "  Father,"  says  Salmon  Brown,  "had  taken  advan- 
tage of  his  knowledge  of  surveying,  and,  as  a  surveyor,  ran  a 
line  through  their  camp.  He  had  been  surveying  the  old  In- 
dian lands,  previously,  for  the  Indians.  The  Border  Ruffians 
never  suspected  us  to  be  anything  but  friends,  for  only  pro- 
slavery  men  got  government  jobs  then,  and  surveyors  were 
supposed  -to  be  government  officers.  So  they  talked  freely 
about  their  plans  and  one  big  fellow  said : '  We  came  up  here  for 
self  first  and  the  South  next.  But  one  thing  we  will  do  before 
we  leave,  we'll  clear  out  the  damned  Brown  crowd.' "  ^'  This 
last  was  an  empty  boast,  as  time  showed.  But  the  arrival  of 
these  men  in  the  neighborhood  of  Osawatomie  was  but  an- 
other sign  of  the  impending  crisis.  They  were  part  of  the  force 
raised  by  Major  Jefferson  Buford  at  Eufaula,  Silver  Run  and 
Columbus,  Georgia,  and  Montgomery,  Alabama,  as  the  result 
of  an  appeal  for  Southern  emigrants  to  settle  in  Kansas.'* 
The  organization  was  military,  but  the  men  went  unarmed  as 
far  as  Kansas  City,  where  they  arrived  between  four  and  five 
hundred  strong,  late  in  April.  On  May  2  they  passed  into  Kan- 
sas with  weapons  in  plenty,  scattering  for  a  time  in  search 
of  homes,  only  to  be  called  upon  in  short  order  as  a  military 
force.  But  before  this  came  to  pass,  they  had  added  greatly 
to  the  terror  of  the  Free  Soil  settlers  by  their  swashbuckling 
marches  through  the  Territory.  Just  as  they  left  Montgomery, 
Buford's  men  had  been  marched  to  the  bookstore  of  the 
Messrs.  Mcllvaine  in  that  city,  where  each  man  received  a 
Bible.  "But,"  says  a  correspondent  of  the  Tribune,  "on  the 
trip  up  the  river  [from  St.  Louis]  the  Bibles  were  thrown 
promiscuously  into  a  large  bucket  on  the  hurricane  deck,  and 
the  company  were  below  handling  an  article  known  among 
gamblers  as  a  'pocket  testament.'"  "   "The  people  of  West- 


138  JOHN  BROWN 

port  were  glad  to  see  Buford's  men  come;  they  were  doubly 
glad  when  they  went  away  finally,"  reported  an  old  citizen 
of  Westport,  and  there  is  little  doubt  that  they  got  out  of 
hand  soon  after  entering  Kansas,  for  as  settlers  they  were 
a  dismal  failure.  When  their  service  in  the  sack  of  Lawrence 
was  over,  after  pillaging  and  roaming  for  a  while,  they  gradu- 
ally began  to  return  to  the  South. 

Here  those  who  returned  afforded  fresh  proof  of  the  inabil- 
ity of  that  section  to  colonize  its  favorite  institution  as  far 
North  and  West  as  Kansas.  A  number  enlisted  in  the  United 
States  troops  in  Kansas,  while  others  went  over  to  the  Free 
State  men  and  thus  became  traitors  to  the  cause  of  human 
bondage.  Still  others  stayed  for  months  near  Westport,  a 
veritable  plague  to  their  friends.'^  In  short,  the  expedition 
was  a  disastrous  failure  politically,  economically  and  finan- 
cially; it  served  no  other  purpose  than  to  aid  in  the  wanton 
destruction  of  part  of  the  city  of  Lawrence  and  the  throwing 
into  chains  of  the  Free  State  leaders. 

Beyond  doubt  the  arrival  of  Buford's  men  raised  high  the 
spirits  of  the  Southern  leaders,  who  fondly  believed  that  there 
would  now  be  sufficient  emigration  of  their  own  people  to 
offset  the  continuing  stream  of  arrivals  from  New  England, 
notably  a  remarkable  colony  from  N6w  Haven,  one  hundred 
strong,  who  settled  sixty-five  miles  above  Lawrence  on  the 
Kansas  River  and,  unlike  Buford's  men,  knew  how  to  plough 
and  plant.  "Our  town,"  wrote  a  correspondent  of  the  Trib- 
une from  Lawrence  on  April  19,  "is  crowded  with  immigrants 
from  all  parts.  A  number  of  companies  are  camping  here, 
anxiously  awaiting  their  exploring  committees,  who  have 
gone  out  to  look  at  different  localities.  There  is  a  large  com- 
pany from  Ohio  —  one  from  Connecticut  —  one  from  New 
Hampshire,  and  others  are  daily  arriving.  .  .  .  The  emi- 
grants of  this  season  are  much  superior  to  those  of  last  year. 
They  come  in  the  face  of  difficulties  and  are  prepared  to  meet 
them."  "  But  fears  of  a  similar  tide  of  Southerners  impelled 
Horace  Greeley  to  impassioned  editorials  urging  the  youth 
of  the  Northeast  to  save  Kansas,  by  force  of  arms  and  de- 
votion to  principle.'^  A  correspondent  of  the  Albany  Journal, 
writing  on  March  16  from  a  steamboat  on  the  Mississippi, 
gave  this  picture  of  the  outlook: 


THE  CAPTAIN  OF  THE  LIBERTY  GUARDS     139 

"  I  have  just  come  up  from  Tennessee  and  let  me  assure  you  that 
the  South  are  now  moving  in  earnest  in  sending  settlers  to  Kansas. 
I  heard  a  letter  from  Kansas  .  .  .  read  at  a  Kansas  meeting,  in 
which  the  South  were  (sic)  urged  to  send  their  men  immediately. 
'The  only  hope,'  the  writer  stated,  was  in  sending  on  enough  to 
whip  the  d — d  Abolitionists  before  the  ist  of  July,  or  the  Territory 
would  be  lost.  The  writer  says :  '  There  are  now  at  least  three  Abo- 
litionists to  one  friend  of  the  South,  and  if  anything  is  done  it  must 
be  done  quickly.'" 

A  Tribune  correspondent  in  Kansas  City  wrote  late  in  April 
that:  "It  is  unquestionable  that  the  South  has  gone  into  the 
'  actual  settlement '  business  to  a  great  extent  this  Spring."  " 
Horace  Greeley  himself  wrote  to  his  newspaper  from  Wash- 
ington on  March  i : 

"The  Free-State  men  of  Kansas  now  in  this  city  have  letters  from 
various  points  in  that  embryo  State  down  to  the  i8th  and  19th  ult. 
Their  general  tone  implies  apprehension  that  a  bloody  collision  is 
imminent.  The  Border  Ruffians  have  been  raised  entirely  off  their 
feet  by  Pierce's  extraordinary  Messages,  which  they  regard  as  a  com- 
plete endorsement  of  all  their  past  outrages  and  an  incitement  to 
persevere  in  their  diabolical  work.  It  is  believed  by  our  friends  that 
the  organization  of  the  State  Government  at  Topeka  the  coming 
week  will  be  made  the  pretext  for  a  raid,  and  if  possible  a  butchery, 
at  the  hands  of  the  Slavery  party.  .  .  ."*° 

It  was  only  in  the  time  set  that  this  prognostication  was 
wrong.  But  meanwhile,  as  James  Redpath  has  recorded, 
the  acts  of  the  Washington  allies  of  Atchison,  Stringfellow 
and  Jones  were  daily  making  of  the  Free  State  pioneers  more 
and  more  ardent  advocates  of  freedom,  and  unifying  them  in 
their  determination  to  resist  to  the  last  the  pro-slavery  ag- 
gressions : 

"I  have  heard  men  who  were  semi-Southerners  before,  declare 
with  Garrison: 

"  T  am  an  Abolitionist! 

I  glory  in  the  name ! '  — 
since  Kansas  was  invaded.    I  have  heard  others  hint  that  even 
Garrison  himself  was  rather  an  old  fogy,  because  he  does  not  go  jar 
enough  in  opposition  to  Slavery.    'The  world  does  move.' "  '' 

In  April  the  pro-slavery  net  began  to  tighten  around  Law- 
rence. Sheriff  Jones  had  reappeared  there  on  April  19,  1856, 
to  vex  anew  its  citizens.   He  had  decided  that  it  was  time  for 


140  JOHN   BROWN 

him  to  attempt  again  the  arrest  of  those  persons  who  five 
months  previously  had  taken  from  him  his  prisoner  Branson. 
Jones's  thumbs  had  begun  to  itch  for  S.  N.  Wood,  the  leader 
of  the  rescuers;  he  was,  therefore,  quite  willing  to  take  Rob- 
inson and  Lane  at  their  word,  that  they  would  not  resist  the 
enforcement  of  a  writ  by  proper  authority,  and  quite  ready 
to  take  ^  chance  —  if  he  did  not  court  it  —  of  again  em- 
broiling the  citizens  of  Lawrence  with  the  Territorial  authori- 
ties. Jones  easily  found  Wood  and  arrested  him,  but  in  the 
crowd  which  speedily  gathered  he  lost  his  prisoner. ^^  Jones 
reappeared  the  next  day  and  called  on  the  citizens  to  help 
him  serve  the  four  warrants  he  had  in  his  hands.  The  crowd 
refused,  saying,  'Take  the  muster  roll,  Jones,  we  all  resist.'  " 
Jones  then  personally  laid  hands  on  Samuel  F.  Tappan,  who 
thereupon  struck  the  sheriff  in  the  face.  This  was  sufiScient 
resistance  to  satisfy  the  sheriff,  who  forthwith  left,  returning 
three  days  later,  on  April  23,  with  First  Lieutenant  James  Mc- 
intosh, of  the  First  Cavalry,  and  ten  troopers.  With  the  aid 
of  these  regulars  he  arrested  six  citizens  on  the  extraordi- 
nary charge  of  contempt  of  court,  in  that  they  had  declined  to 
aid  him  in  serving  his  warrants,  —  an  unheard-of  form  of  the 
crime  of  disrespect  to  the  judiciary.  His  prisoners  were  put 
in  a  tent  to  await  the  pleasure  of  their  captor.  That  evening, 
while  Jones  was  sitting  in  his  tent,  with  his  shadow  outlined 
against  it  by  the  light  within,  he  was  shot  from  without  and 
gravely  wounded  by  James  N.  Filer,^^  a  young  New  Yorker, 
though  the  blame  long  rested  on  Charles  Lenhart,  a  printer, 
subsequently  prominent  in  the  attempt  to  rescue  Brown 
from  his  Virginia  prison.  Lenhart  was  undoubtedly  outside 
the  tent  when  Jones  was  shot,  and  as  he  was  a  reckless  fellow, 
suspicion  not  unnaturally  fell  upon  him. 

Nothing  more  unfortunate  could  have  happened  for  the 
citizens  of  Lawrence  than  the  shooting  of  Jones,  even  though 
his  life  was  spared,  for  the  pro-slavery  newspapers  at  once 
announced  his  death,  and  called  upon  their  readers  to  avenge 
his  murder.  None  of  the  regrets  that  the  citizens  of  Law- 
rence expressed  could  undo  the  injury  inflicted  by  Filer's 
shot.  They  held  a  mass  meeting  on  April  24,  addressed  by 
Reeder,  Robinson,  Grosvenor  P.  Lowry  and  others,  who  con- 
demned the  crime  in  proper  terms  as  cowardly  and  dastardly." 


THE  CAPTAIN  OF  THE  LIBERTY  GUARDS     141 

But  their  expressions  went  for  naught.  It  was  precisely  the 
overt  act  needed  to  give  Jones  and  his  men  the  appear- 
ance of  being  hindered  in  the  performance  of  their  duty,  and 
assaulted  because  of  their  devotion  to  it.  The  scene  of  the 
shooting  —  Lawrence  —  was  particularly  satisfactory  to  the 
pro-slavery  party,  since,  it  enabled  them  to  concentrate  anew 
their  enmity  upon  that  hated  town.  "We  are  now  in  favor 
of  levelling  Lawrence  and  chastising  the  Traitors  there  con- 
gregated, should  it  result  in  total  destruction  of  the  Union," 
declared  the  Squatter  Sovereign  on  April  29,  1856.  A  week 
later.  May  6,  "still  keeping  alive  the  falsehood  of  Jones's 
death,  it  thus  incited  to  murder: 

"When  a  proslavery  man  gets  into  a  difficulty  with  an  Abolition- 
ist let  him  think  of  the  murdered  Jones  and  Clark,  and  govern  him- 
self accordingly.  In  a  fight,  let  our  motto  be,  'War  to  the  knife, 
and  knife  to  the  hilt;'  asking  no  quarters  from  them  and  granting 
none.  Jones'  Murder  Must  Be  Revenged!!  " 

Appeals  like  this  speedily  bore  fruit.  On  the  next  day, 
J.  N.  Mace,  a  Free  State  settler,  who  had  testified  before  the 
Howard  Committee  then  sitting  at  Lawrence,  was  shot  in  the 
leg  by  two  men,  who,  thinking  him  dead,  went  off,  rejoicing 
in  his  hearing  that  there  was  "more  abolition  bait  for  the 
wolves."  '*  At  an  indignation  meeting  held  in  Lawrence  on 
May  2  to  consider  Mace's  case,  Governor  Robinson  again 
soothed  the  perturbed  feelings  of  the  multitude,  urged  his 
listeners  to  go  on  making  laws  of  their  own,  but  not  to  give 
way  to  any  spirit  of  revenge,  and  deprecated  the  attack  upon 
Sheriff  Jones  as  cowardly  and  base."  April  30  had  been  a 
fateful  day  for  the  Rev.  Pardee  Butler,  who,  undeterred  by 
his  being  sent  down  the  Missouri  on  a  raft  by  his  neighbors, 
returned  then  to  Atchison.  He  was  immediately  stripped  and 
cottoned  (for  lack  of  feathers),  turned  loose  on  the  prairie, 
and  a  committee  of  three  was  appointed  to  hang  him  the 
next  time  he  came  to  Atchison.  His  sole  offence,  according 
to  his  own  testimony,  was  his  telling  the  Squatter  Sovereign 
that  he  was  a  Free  Soiler  and  meant  to  vote  accordingly.^' 
On  May  19  there  fell,  shot  in  the  back  near  Blanton's 
Bridge,  John  Jones,  who,  according  to  the  existing  evidence, 
gave  up  his  life  merely  because  he,  a  boy  of  twenty,  was 


142  JOHN   BROWN 

accused  of  being  an  Abolitionist.*'  Three  young  men,  Charles 
Lenhart,  John  Stewart  and  John  E.  Cook  (who  subsequently 
died  on  a  Virginia  gibbet,  after  John  Brown),  rode  out  toward 
the  scene  of  this  crime  as  soon  as  it  was  reported.  On  their 
way  to  Blanton's  Bridge  they  fell  in  with  several  Missourians, 
who  subsequently  testified  that  they  were  fired  upon  first  and 
one  of  them  wounded ;  that  in  self-defence  they  shot  and  killed 
Stewart.  Lenhart  and  Cook  stated  that  Stewart  hailed  the 
Missourians  by  asking  them  where  they  were  going.  Their 
reply  was  a  shot  and  Stewart  fell  dead.  The  Free  State  men 
with  him  were  convinced  that  Coleman,  the  murderer  of  Dow, 
had  in  this  case  also  fired  the  fatal  shot.'" 

Judge  Lecompte  next  stirred  up  the  Territory  in  behalf  of 
the  pro-slavery  cause  by  charging  the  grand  jury  in  session  at 
Lecompton  during  the  second  week  in  May  that  all  the  laws 
passed  by  the  Shawnee  Legislature  were  of  United  States 
authority  and  making;  that,  therefore,  all  who  "resist  these 
laws,  resist  the  power  and  authority  of  the  United  States; 
and  are  therefore,  guilty  of  high  treason."  *  "If,"  he  con- 
tinued, laying  down  a  principle  new  in  American  judicial 
procedure,  "you  find  that  no  such  resistance  has  been  made, 
but  that  combinations  have  been  formed  for  the  purpose  of 
resisting  them,  and  that  individuals  of  influence  and  notori- 
ety have  been  aiding  and  abetting  in  such  combinations,  then 
must  you  find  bills  for  constructive  treason."  At  once,  with- 
out hearing  any  witnesses,  the  grand  jury  indicted  Reeder, 
Robinson,  Lane,  George  W.  Brown,  George  W.  Deitzler, 
Samuel  N.  Wood,  Gains  Jenkins  and  George  W.  Smith  on  the 
charge  of  treason."  It  is  in  keeping  with  this  performance  that 
Governor  Robinson,  who,  with  his  wife,  had  left  Lawrence  at 
its  most  critical  moment,  in  order  to  lay  the  true  situation  be- 
fore the  friends  of  Free  Kansas  in  the  East,  should  have  been 
taken  from  the  steamer  Star  of  the  West  at  Lexington,  Mis- 
souri, on  May  lo,  on  the  charge  of  fleeing  from  an  indict- 
ment, when  that  indictment  was  not  reported  by  the  jury  until 

*  "Section  3,  Article  3,  of  the  Constitution  of  the  United  States  says:  "Trea- 
son against  the  United  States  shall  consist  only  in  levying  War  against  them,  or 
in  adhering  to  their  Enemies,  giving  them  Aid  and  Comfort.  No  person  shall 
be  convicted  of  Treason  unless  on  the  Testimony  of  two  witnesses  to  the  same 
overt  act,  or  on  Confession  in  open  Court." 


THE   CAPTAIN  OF  THE  LIBERTY  GUARDS     143 

a  week  after  his  detention. ^^  Better  evidence  of  the  way  the 
whole  machinery  of  justice  was  being  prostituted  to  pro- 
slavery  ends  could  hardly  be  produced;  it  resulted  in  Robin- 
son's being  taken  to  Leavenworth,  where  he  remained  until 
his  release  on  bail  of  five  thousand  dollars,  on  September  10, 
after  four  months'  confinement.  Ex-Governor  Reeder  escaped 
from  Kansas  in  disguise,  after  having  claimed  protection  in 
vain  as  a  witness  before  the  Howard  Committee,  and  having 
told  the  United  States  deputy  marshal  that  any  attempt  to 
take  him  prisoner  would  be  attended  with  serious  results.^' 
Lane  escaped  Robinson's  fate  only  by  happening  to  be  in 
Indiana  on  a  visit.  The  Free  Soil  movement  was  thus  deprived 
of  its  leaders.  But  the  complaisant  Lecompton  grand  jury 
was  not  content  with  indictment  for  treason;  it  took  the  still 
more  extraordinary  course  of  recommending  the  abatement 
as  nuisances  of  the  Lawrence  Free  Soil  newspapers,  The 
Herald  of  Freedom  and  The  Kansas  Free  State.  Charging  that 
the  Free  State  Hotel  in  Lawrence  had  been  built  for  use  as  a 
fortress  as  well  as  a  caravansary,  the  jurors  expressed  their 
opinion  that  its  demolition  was  desirable. 

Ex-Governor  Reeder's  refusal  to  submit  to  arrest  was  a 
greatly  desired  opportunity  to  another  Jones,  the  United 
States  marshal  for  Kansas  Territory,  I.  B.  Donaldson.  He  at 
once  issued  (on  May  1 1 )  the  following  proclamation : 

To  The  People  of  Kansas  Territory  : 

Whereas,  certain  judicial  writs  of  arrest  have  been  directed  to  me 
by  the  First  District  Court  of  the  United  States,  etc.,  to  be  executed 
within  the  county  of  Douglas:  and,  whereas,  an  attempt  to  execute 
them  by  the  United  States  Deputy  Marshal  was  violently  resisted 
by  a  large  number  of  citizens  of  Lawrence;  and  as  there  is  every 
reason  to  believe  that  any  attempt  to  execute  these  writs  will  be 
resisted  by  a  large  body  of  armed  men: 

Now,  therefore,  the  law-abiding  citizens  of  the  Territory  are  com- 
manded to  be  and  appear  at  Lecompton  as  soon  as  practicable,  and 
in  numbers  sufficient  for  the  proper  execution  of  the  law.°^ 

Like  Sheriff  Jones,  Donaldson  believed  most  of  the  law- 
abiding  citizens  of  Kansas  lived  in  Missouri,  for  his  proclama- 
tion went  first  to  the  border  towns  and  to  Leavenworth  and 
Atchison,  the  strongest  pro-slavery  settlements  in  Kansas.'* 
Before  the  proclamation  was  known  to  the  Free  Soil  settlers, 


144  JOHN  BROWN 

the  Border  Ruffians  had  begun  to  assemble  in  the  neighbor- 
hood of  Lawrence,  stopping  travellers,  patrolling  the  roads, 
even  pillaging,  as  if  they  were  a  conquering  army,  and  gener- 
ally in  high  feather,  for  this  time  they  felt  certain  of  their 
prey,  since  it  had  been  officially  delivered  over  to  them.  The 
United  States  Court  had  issued  the  warrants;  the  United 
States  marshal  had  called  out  them  instead  of  the  United 
States  troops,  who,  after  their  visit  in  numbers  to  Lawrence 
under  Colonel  Sumner  upon  the  shooting  of  Jones,  had  been 
allowed  to  return  to  their  garrisons.  In  the  Wakarusa  "  war," 
Shannon,  not  having  power  over  the  regulars,  called  eagerly 
for  their  aid ;  now  that  they  were  at  his  disposal,  he  refused  to 
send  them  to  Lawrence  for  the  protection  of  its  citizens,  as 
the  latter  implored  him  to,  or  to  urge  Donaldson  to  use  them 
as  his  posse.*  Whereas  in  the  previous  December  Governor 
Shannon  had  been  willing  to  keep  the  peace,  and  eager  to 
arrive  at  a  compromise,  he  was  ready  now  to  have  the  tables 
turned  upon  those  who  had  tricked  him  when  in  his  cups, 
well  knowing  what  the  outcome  would  be.  "  But  so  long,"  he 
wrote  to  the  Lawrence  committee  which  begged  protection  of 
him,  "as  they  [the  citizens  of  Lawrence]  keep  up  a  military 
or  armed  organization  to  resist  Territorial  laws  and  the  offi- 
cers charged  with  their  execution,  I  shall  not  interpose  to 
save  them  from  the  legitimate  consequences  of  their  illegal 
acts."«« 

It  was  the  van  of  Donaldson's  forces  which  killed  Stewart 
and  Jones.  His  band  comprised,  first,  Buford's  newly  arrived 
men,  whom  their  leader  hastily  called  together  from  their  easy- 
going search  for  home-sites,  four  hundred  in  all  responding. 
They  represented  in  Donaldson's  eyes,  after  being  nineteen 
days  in  Kansas,  the  "law-abiding  citizens  of  the  Territory." 
General  David  R.  Atchison,  of  Missouri,  headed  a  Missouri 
company,  the  Platte  County  Riflemen,  with  two  pieces 
of  artillery;  while  the  Kickapoo  Rangers,  who  had  hacked 
Captain  R.  P.  Brown  to  death,  and  other  Kansas  pro-slavery 
companies  eagerly  joined  the  forces."  Both  the  Stringfellows 

*  When  President  Pierce  heard  of  Donaldson's  plans,  he  was  much  worried, 
and  telegraphed  to  Shannon  suggesting  that  the  United  States  troops  be  used, 
and  then  only  after  the  marshal  had  met  with  actual  resistance.  The  telegram 
came  too  late  to  be  of  avail.   See  Kansas  Historical  Collections,  vol.  4,  p.  414. 


THE  CAPTAIN  OF  THE  LIBERTY  GUARDS     145 

were  there,  ready  to  be  in  at  the,  death,  and  hoping  that  this 
meant  the  extermination  of  the  hated  AboHtionists.  About 
seven  hundred  and  fifty  in  all,  this  "swearing,  whiskey- 
drinking,  ruffianly  hord?,"^*  who  were  there  to  uphold  the 
majesty  of  the  law,  appeared  near  Lawrence  on  May  21, 
after  a  committee  from  there  had  vainly  tried  to  induce 
Marshal  Donaldson  to  agree  to  a  compromise  by  which  the 
town  should  be  surrendered  to  Colonel  Sumner  and  his  cav- 
alry regiment,  to  be  held  until  the  writs  were  served.'^  But 
the  serving  of  the  warrants  was  not  Donaldson's  real  purpose, 
nor  that  of  the  men  associated  with  him.  The  deputy  mar- 
shal. Fain,  made  two  arrests  in  Lawrence  without  difficulty 
or  resistance,  on  the  evening  of  May  20.1°''  Accompanied  by 
ten  unarmed  men,  he  returned  at  eleven  o'clock  the  next 
morning  and  summoned  five  citizens  of  Lawrence  to  join  his 
posse;  they  did  so,  and  he  then  arrested  George  W.  Deitzler, 
George  W.  Smith  and  Gains  Jenkins  on  the  charge  of  treason. 
They  submitted  cheerfully.  While  Fain  was  at  the  Free  State 
Hotel,  he  received  a  communication  from  the  eight  citizens 
of  Lawrence  who  were  acting  as  a  committee  of  public  safety. 
This  committee,  speaking  for  the  entire  town,  acknowledged 
the  "constituted  authorities  of  the  Government,"  and  stated 
that  they  would  "make  no  resistance  to  the  execution  of  the 
law  National  or  Territorial."  This  submission  was  in  vain. 
Fain,  having  his  prisoners  in  hand,  announced  to  the  Bor- 
der Ruffians  that  he  had  peacefully  accomplished  his  purpose, 
but  added  that  Sheriff  Jones  had  writs  yet  to  be  served,  and 
that  they  could  act  as  his  posse  if  they  desired. 

With  the  utmost  alacrity  the  invitation  was  accepted,  but 
no  pretence  of  serving  any  writs  was  made.  The  Southerners 
were  stimulated  by  the  oratory  of  Atchison,  but  recently 
presiding  officer  of  the  United  States  Senate,  who  declared 
among  other  things:  "And  now  we  will  go  in  with  our  highly 
honorable  Jones,  and  test  the  strength  of  that  damned  Free 
State  Hotel.  Be  brave,  be  orderly,  and  if  any  man  or  woman 
stand  in  your  way,  blow  them  to  hell  with  a  chunk  of  cold 
lead."  But  they  did  not  go  in  until  the  Free  State  men 
had  surrendered  their  arms  to  Jones,  as  further  evidence  of 
good  faith.  Once  in,  there  was  no  John  Brown  to  counsel 
resistance  to  them,  no  Lane  to  lead,  and  no  Robinson  to  tern- 


146  JOHN  BROWN 

porize.  There  was  no  real  leader.  The  military  company, 
the  Stubbs,  was  not  in  evidence.  There  were  only  two  hun- 
dred rifles  and  ten  kegs  of  powder  in  all  Lawrence.  Many  of 
the  citizens  were  either  in  arrest  or  in  hiding  to  escape  capture. 
Many  others  had  left  town  to  save  their  families.  So  no  de- 
fence was  attempted  when  the  two  newspaper  offices  were 
destroyed  and  the  types,  papers,  presses  and  books  thrown 
into  the  river.  The  Free  State  Hotel  remained,  however, 
and  the  order  of  the  court  that  it  be  "abated"  was  not  yet 
enforced.  Here  Major  Buford  again  protested  that  he  had 
not  come  to  Kansas  to  destroy  property,  and  Atchison  seems 
to  have  been  sobered  some.  But  Jones  wanted  his  triumph 
complete,  and  the  Free  State  Hotel  was  soon  in  flames,  after 
the  pro-slavery  cannon  had  sent  thirty-two  shot  into  it, 
Atchison  firing  the  first  shot.'"  "This,"  said  Jones,  "is  the 
happiest  moment  of  my  life."  As  the  walls  of  the  hotel  fell, 
he  cried  out  in  glee,  "I  have  done  it,  by  God,  I  have  done 
it,"  "^  and  it  in  no  wise  troubled  him  that,  when  he  dismissed 
his  drunken  posse,  as  the  hotel  lay  in  ruins,  it  promptly  robbed 
the  town,  winding  up  by  the  burning  of  Governor  Robinson's 
house.  The  majesty  of  the  law  was  upheld ;  its  flouting  by 
Free  Soilers  avenged. 

The  pro-slavery  leaders  and  their  disbanded  followers  left 
the  Territory  exulting  in  their  victory,  and  wholly  unable  to 
realize  that  it  was  not  only  to  be  their  defeat,  but  that  they 
had  let  loose  a  veritable  Pandora's  box  of  evil  passions,  and 
finally  inaugurated  a  reign  of  bloodshed,  midnight  assassina- 
tion and  guerrilla  warfare.  Besides,  they  had  aroused  the 
whole  North  to  fresh  anger  by  the  destruction  of  Lawrence, 
at  first  reported  to  have  been  accompanied  by  heavy  loss  of 
life.  The  inscriptions  on  their  banners,  "Southern  Rights" 
and  "South  Carolina"  and 

"  Let  Yankees  tremble,  abolitionists  fall, 
Our  Motto  is.  Give  Southern  rights  to  all,"  "" 

alone  brought  dozens  of  recruits  to  the  Free  State  cause. 
"From  this  time  no  further  effort  was  required  to  raise 
colonies.  They  raised  themselves,"  records  Eli  Thayer,  the 
Worcester,  Massachusetts,  organizer  of  the  Emigrant  Aid  So- 
cieties. i»*    The  raiding  of  Lawrence  put  an  arsenal  of  argu- 


THE  CAPTAIN  OF  THE  LIBERTY  GUARDS     147 

ments  into  the  hands  of  the  new-born  Republican  party,  and 
fastened  the  nation's  attention  on  the  Territory.  On  the 
day  of  the  raid,  Horace  Greeley  declared  that  the  "bloody 
collision  in  Kansas,"  which  seemed  to  him  "  almost  inevitable," 
would  "hardly  fail  to  shake  the  Union  to  its  center."  "•' 


CHAPTER  V 
MURDER  ON  THE  POTTAWATOMIE 

To  his  "Dear  Wife  and  Children  Every  One,"  wrote  John 
Brown,  "near  Brown's  Station,  K.  T.,  June,  1856,"  as  fol- 
lows: 1 

"It  is  now  about  five  weeks  since  I  have  seen  a  line  from  North 
Elba,  or  had  any  chance  of  writing  you.  During  that  period  we 
here  have  passed  through  an  almost  constant  series  of  very  trying 
events.  We  were  called  to  go  to  the  relief  of  Lawrence,  May  22, 
and  every  man  (eight  in  all)  except  Orson  [Day],  turned  out;  he 
staying  with  the  women  and  children,  and  to  take  care  of  the  cattle. 
John  was  captain  of  a  company  to  which  Jason  belonged ;  the  other 
six  were  a  little  company  by  ourselves.  On  our  way  to  Lawrence 
we  learned  that  it  had  been  already  destroyed,  and  we  encamped 
with  John's  company  over  night.  Next  day  our  little  company  left, 
and  during  the  day  we  stopped  and  searched  three  men.  ...  On 
the  second  day  and  evening  after  we  left  John's  men  we  encountered 
quite  a  number  of  proslavery  men,  and  took  quite  a  number  of  pris- 
oners. Our  prisoners  we  let  go ;  but  we  kept  some  four  or  five  horses. 
We  were  immediately  after  this  accused  of  murdering  five  men  at 
Pottawatomie,  and  great  efforts  have  since  been  made  by  the  Mis- 
sourians  and  their  ruffian  allies  to  capture  us.  John's  company  soon 
afterward  disbanded,  and  also  the  Osawatomie  men." 

/         .        .  . 

In  this  brief,  equivocal  fashion  John  Brown  reported  to  the 

absent  members  of  his  family  that  event  in  his  life  which  made 
him  most  famous  in  Kansas  and  has  caused  more  discussion 
than  any  other  single  event  in  the  history  of  Kansas  Territory. 
Upon  the  degree  of  criminality,  if  any,  which  should  attach 
to  John  Brown  for  his  part  in  the  proceedings,  the  debate 
in  Kansas  to-day  is  almost  as  bitter  as  at  the  time  of  the 
crime,  or  when  Brown's  tragic  end  kindled  the  Kansas  inter- 
est in  it  anew.  As  one  views  Brown's  conduct  in  the  killing  of 
the  five  pro-slavery  men  on  Pottawatomie  Creek  depends  to  a 
large  degree  the  place  which  may  be  assigned  to  him  in  history. 
Certainly,  without  a  clear  appreciation  of  what  happened  on 
the  night  of  the  24th  to  the  25th  of  May,  1856,  a  true  under- 
standing of  Brown,  the  man,  cannot  be  reached.   The  actual 


MURDER  ON  THE  POTTAWATOMIE         149 

details  have  been  veiled  for  nearly  half  a  century  in  a  mystery 
which  the  confessions  of  one  of  the  party  only  partially  dis- 
pelled, fortunately  for  the  truth  of  history,  there  are  two  other 
participants,  Henry  Thompson  and  Salmon  Brown,  still  sur- 
viving after  this  long  stretch  of  time,  who  have  now  set  forth 
what  happened.  There  are  also  many  narratives  of  contempo- 
rary witnesses  available  which,  when  weighed  together,  make 
possible  not  only  a  real  knowledge  of  the  conditions  prece- 
dent to  the  Pottawatomie  massacre,  but  of  its  effects  upon 
the  Free  Soil  cause. 

John  Brown,  Jr.,  was  engaged  in  planting  corn  when  the 
messenger  from  Lawrence  arrived.  "Without  delay,"  he  re- 
corded in  a  defence  of  his  father,*  "I  rode  to  Osawatomie 
with  the  word  and  then  rallied  the  men  of  my  company  whose 
homes  were  mostly  on  Pottawatomie  and  Middle  Creeks." 
His  first  lieutenant,  Henry  H.  Williams,  assisted  him  in  this 
work,  and  by  six  o'clock  in  the  evening  thirty-fpur  armed 
men  met  at  the  rendezvous,  the  junction  of  the  Osawatomie 
and  California  roads.  "The  'Marion  Rifles'  and  'Pomeroy 
Guards'  from  Osawatomie,"  narrated  Williams,'  in  what  is 
truly  most  valuable  contemporary  testimony,  since  it  was 
written  only  two  months  after  the  event,  while  Williams  was 
still  a  prisoner  at  Leavenworth,  "had  promised  to  meet  us 
here  by  agreement,  but  only  two  men  came,  who  reported 
that  another  messenger  from  Lawrence  had  arrived  and  con- 
tradicted the  former  report,  and  that,  therefore,  the  Osawato- 
mie companies  would  await  further  orders.  The  Pottawato- 
mies,  however,  agreed  to  push  on  to  Lawrence  and  ascertain 
the  facts  for  themselves.  Accordingly  we  moved  on,  and  two 
miles  from  the  Meridezene  [Marais  des  Cygnes]  we  met  a  mes- 
senger from  near  Lawrence  who  reported  that  the  Border 
Ruffians  had  taken  the  town  without  any  resistance  and  were 
razing  it  to  the  ground.  This  startling  news  was  received  in 
silence  by  the  company.  Then  the  word  '  onward '  was  passed 
along  the  line  and  although  scarcely  a  word  was  spoken  the 
thoughts  of  every  one  could  be  read  in  his  countenance.  We 
pushed  on,  and  a  messenger  was  dispatched  to  arouse  the 
settlers  at  Osawatomie.  At  Prairie  City  we  learned  that  there 
was  no  organized  Free  State  force  in  Lawrence  and  that  the 
'  Border  Ruffians '  were  in  possession  of  Blanton's  Bridge, 


I50  JOHN  BROWN 

and  had  assembled  in  force  at  Lecompton.  We  concluded 
to  encamp  at  Prairie  City  and  await  reinforcements." 

At  this  camp  the  company  of  John  Brown,  Jr.,  and  Lieuten- 
ant H.  H.  Williams  remained  until  the  next  day,  the  23d.  Cap- 
tain Shore  and  his  Osawatomie  company,  together  with  the 
"Pomeroy  Guards,"  joined  the  camp,  bringing  details  of  the 
sack  of  Lawrence  and  also  the  news  that  a  force  of  four  hun- 
dred men  under  Buford  was  in  camp  a  few  miles  to  the  east.* 
That  evening,  hearing  that  Governor  Robinson  was  being 
taken,  a  prisoner,  from  Westport  to  Lecompton,  guarded  by 
Border  Ruffian^,  the  three  companies  moved  to  Palmyra  (now 
the  prosperous  town  of  Baldwin),  then  a  little  near-by  settle- 
ment, twelve  miles  from  Lawrence,  in  order  that  they  might 
rescue  the  Free  State  leader  if  he  were  brought  that  way  over 
the  Santa  F6  trail.''  In  their  new  camp  they  were  joined  by  the 
Marion  Rifles,  Captain  Updegraflf.  On  the  24th,  Captain  John 
Brown,  Jr.,  went  with  a  scouting  party  into  Lawrence  to  view 
the  ruins.*  His  report  and  that  of  his  men,  that  the  citizens 
of  that  ill-fated  town  had  not  united  in  defending  themselves 
against  the  common  enemy,  made  the  four  companies  at 
Palmyra  decide  they  could  not  fight  Lawrence's  battles  alone. 
"Accordingly,"  wrote  Mr.  Williams,  "we  broke  up  our  camp, 
each  company  returning  to  its  respective  locality,  the  men 
dispersing  to  their  homes."  This  homeward  movement  was 
hastened  by  the  arrival  of  thirteen  soldiers  of  the  First  Cav- 
alry under  Second  Lieutenant  John  R.  Church,  a  young  West 
Pointer,  whose  official  report  of  the  meeting,  dated  May  26, 
1856,  has  fortunately  been  preserved.  Lieutenant  Church, 
after  a  long  talk  with  John  Brown,  Jr.,  ordered  him  to  dis- 
band the  camp  in  compliance  with  his  (Church's)  orders  to 
disperse  all  armed  bodies  he  encountered,  whether  pro-slavery 
or  Free  Soil.' 

Curiously  enough,  the  Pottawatomies  returned  to  their 
homes  the  next  day  under  the  command  of  a  new  captain, 
Henry  H.  Williams,  having  deposed  John  Brown,  Jr.,  on  his 
way  back  from  Lawrence,  because  he  had  freed  two  slaves.' 
"The  arrival  of  those  slaves  in  camp  next  morning  caused  a 
commotion,"  so  their  liberator  has  recorded.  "The  act  of  free- 
ing them,  though  attended  by  no  violence  or  bloodshed,  was 
freely  denounced,  and  in  accordance  with  a  vote  given  by  a 


MURDER  ON  THE  POTTAWATOMIE         151 

large  majority  of  the  men,  those  freed  persons,  in  opposition  to 
my  expressed  will,  were  returned  to  their  master.  The  driver 
of  the  team  which  carried  them  overtaking  him  on  his  way 
to  Wejitport,  received  a  side-saddle  as  his  reward."  There 
was  still  another  reason  why  the  men  of  John  Brown,  Jr.'s 
company  chose  a  new  captain.  On  this  same  day,  when  the 
company  was  near  Ottawa  Creek  on  its  return,  a  rider  came 
tearing  into  camp  —  his  horse  panting  and  lathered  with 
foam  —  and  without  dismounting  yelled  out:  "Five  men  have 
been  killed  on  Pottawatomie  Creek,  butchered  and  most 
brutally  mangled,  and  old  John  Brown  has  done  it!"  — 
thus  Jason  Brown  records  it.  "This  information,"  he  states, 
"caused  great  excitement  and  fear  among  the  men  of  our  com- , 
pany  and  a  feeling  arose  against  John  and  myself  which  led 
the  men  all  to  desert  us."  ' 

As  John  Brown  himself  wrote  to  his  family,  he  and  a  small 
party  left  his  son's  company  the  morning  after  their  long 
night  tramp  to  Prairie  City,  on  Friday,  May  23.  The  cir- 
cumstances kading  up  to  his  departure  are  thus  set  forth  by 
Jason  Brown: 

I 
"  Father  coolied  for  our  company.  While  he  was  cooking  break- 
fast, I  heard  him,  Townsley  and  Weiner  talking  together.  I  heard 
Townsley  say:  'We  expect  to  be  butchered,  every  Free  State  set- 
tler in  our  region,'  and  Townsley  pleaded  that  help  should  be  sent. 
I  heard  their  talk  only  in  fragments.  Then  I  heard  father  say  to 
Weiner:  'Now  something  must  be  done.  We  have  got  to  defend  our 
families  and  our  neighbors  as  best  we  can.  Something  is  going  to 
be  done  now.  We  must  show  by  actual  work  that  there  are  two  sides 
to  this  thing  and  that  they  cannot  go  on  with  impunity.'"  '° 

Weiner  also  told  Martin  Van  Buren  Jackson,  in  the  camp, 
"that  he,  his  man  Benjamin  and  also  Bondi,  had  been  insulted, 
abused  and  ordered  to  leave  the  county  within  three  days,  by 
the  Shermans  and  other  pro-slavery  parties  living  in  the 
neighborhood  of  Dutch  Henry's  Crossing;  and  that  Dutch 
Bill  (Sherman),  as  he  was  called,  was  drunk  and  very  abu- 
sive. He  said  this  was  the  second  time  they  had  been  to  his 
place  in  the  past  few  days,  and  he  did  not  propose  to  stand 
such  treatment  much  longer."  " 

Moved  by  this  and  other  provocations,  John  Brown  acted 
at  once.  "  Pottawatomie,"  says  Salmon  Brown,  "was  resolved 


152  JOHN   BROWN 

upon  by  father,  supported  by  the  leading  men  in  Johnj's  com- 
pany —  maybe  a  dozen  —  and  by  his  own  crowd.    T'he  plan 
was  thoroughly  discussed  there  in  camp,  not  before  thje  whole 
company,  but  in  the  council  thus  selected."  '^  August!  Bondi, 
a  faithful  follower  of  John  Brown,  remembers  the  ,' council 
well,  for  Brown  used  to  him  practically  the  same  words  — 
"Something  must  be  done  to   show  these  barbarialns  that 
we,  too,  have  rights,"  i'  —  which  he  had  previously   spoken 
to  Weiner  and  Townsley.    It  is  clear  that  John  Bnpwn  did 
reveal  to  the  council  the  general  outline  of  hisplap."    "It 
was  now  and  here  resolved  that  they,  their  aiders  and  .abettors, 
who  sought  to  kill  our  suffering  people,  should  therpiselves  be 
killed,  and  in  such  manner  as  should  be  likely  to  c/ause  a  re- 
straining fear,"  declares  John  Brown,  Jr.,  and  Salmeon  Brown 
testifies : 

"The  general  purport  of  our  intentions  —  some  radical  retalia- 
tory measure  —  some  killing  —  was  well  understood  by  the  whole 
camp.  You  never  heard  such  cheering  as  they  gave  us  when  we 
started  out."  They  were  wild  with  excitement  and  enthusiasm. 
The  principal  man  —  tfie  leader  —  in  the  council  that  resolved  on 
the  necessity  of  Pottawatomie,  —  was  H.  H.  Williams:  I  do  not 
know  that  I  ought  to  tell  this  since  he  himself  has  not;  but  it  is  the 
fact.  He  was  wholly  determined  that  the  thing  must  be  done.  He 
knew  all  those  men  on  the  Pottawatomie,  better  than  any  of  us. 
He  lived  among  them  —  was  familiar  with  all  their  characters.  He 
was  now  the  most  active  of  us  all  in  urging  this  step.  And  not  fif- 
teen minutes  before  we  left  to  go  to  Pottawatomie  I  saw  him,  my- 
self, write  out  a  list  of  the  men  who  were  to  be  killed  and  hand  it  to 
father.  This  was  on  the  crest  of  the  wave  of  enthusiasm.  Williams 
was  a  little  cautious,  I  always  thought,  even  then.  He  was  a  first- 
rate  fellow;  but  he  was  too  smart,  even  in  enthusiasm,  to  go  into  a 
thing  like  that,  personally,  when  he  could  get  someone  else  to  do  it 
for  him.  Then,  when  it  was  all  over,  and  he  found  how  the  people 
down  at  home  took  it,  he  got  scared.  He  had  n't  the  backbone  to 
stand  by  his  own  mind,  against  popular  opinion,  —  he  went  back 
on  his  own  radical  measures,  weakened,  did  not  confess  to  his  own 
share  in  their  origin,  and  counselled  peace.  In  fact,  he  got  scared. 
Benjamin  told  me  about  this  afterward.  Williams  wrote  down  the 
names  of  the  men  whom,  he  said,  it  was  necessary  to  pick  off  to  pre- 
vent the  utter  destruction  of  the  whole  community  and  handed  the 
paper  to  father.  We  started  back,  thereupon,  for  the  Pottawatomie 
country,  which  was  the  headquarters  for  the  pro-slavery  men,  under 
Judge  Cato,  for  that  region,  to  pick  off  the  designated  men  promi- 
nent in  enforcing  Border  RufiSan  laws." '° 


MURDER  ON  THE  POTTAWATOMIE         153 

About  noon,  John  Brown  selected  for  his  party  Henry 
Thompson,  Theodore  Weiner,  and  four  sons,  Owen,  Frederick, 
Salmon  and  Oliver.  In  order  to  secure  the  use  of  his  wagon, 
John  Brown  went  to  James  Townsley,  of  the  Pottawatomie 
Rifles,  saying  he  had  just  heard  trouble  was  expected  on  the 
Pottawatomie.  He  asked  Townsley  whether  he  could  not  take 
his  team  of  grays  and  convey  him  with  his  sons  back  to  Pot- 
tawatomie. Townsley  consented,  and  the  departure  was  fixed 
for  two  o'clock."  The  interim  was  devoted  to  the  sharpen-- 
ing  of  some  of  the  odd-shaped  cutlasses,  the  gift  of  General 
Lucius  V.  Bierce,  of  Akron,  Ohio,  that  John  Brown  had  brought 
West  with  him,  for  use  in  border  warfare. ^^  John  Brown, 
Jr.,  and  Jason  devoted  themselves  to  the  cutlasses,  while  a 
boy,  Bain  Fuller,  turned  the  grindstone;  but  Jason  insists 
that  he  had  no  idea  of  the  real  purpose  of  the  expedition." 
Seeing  the  grinding  operation,  George  Grant  remarked  to 
Frederick  Brown:  "That  looks  like  business."  "Yes,"  was 
the  reply,  "it  does."  When  Grant  asked  whether  he  might 
not  also  ride  back  in  Townsley 's  wagon,  Frederick  Brown 
consulted  his  father,  only  to  return  and  report:  "Father  says 
you  had  better  not  come."^"  Bain  Fuller,  whose  father  had 
received  John  Brown's  word  that  the  boy  should  not  get  into 
trouble,  was  told  to  go  home  and  to  be  sure  to  have  witnesses 
as  to  his  whereabouts  for  that  night. ^^  Before  Townsley's 
horses  were  ready  and  the  cutlasses  had  received  their  edge, 
a  feeling  came  over  some  of  the  men  in  the  canip  that  the 
radical  leader  of  the  returning  party  might  not  act  with 
sufficient  discretion.  One  of  them  went  to  John  Brown,  so 
relates  Judge  James  Hanway,  and  urged  "caution."  At  this. 
Brown,  who  was  packing  up  his  camp  fixtures,  instantly  stood 
erect  and  said:  "Caution,  caution,  sir.  I  am  eternally  tired 
of  hearing  that  word  caution.  It  is  nothing  but  the  word 
of  cowardice."  "  In  the  Kansas  Monthly,  for  January,  1880, 
Judge  Hanway  wrote:  "I  ventured  to  approach  one  of  the 
eight,  and  from  him  learned  the  program  contemplated.  In 
fact,  I  received  an  invitation  to  be  one  of  the  party,  and 
being  unwilling  to  consent  before  I  learned  the  object,  I 
was  made  acquainted  with  the  object  of  the  expedition;  it 
shocked  me." 

With  the  shouts  of  their  comrades  in  their  ears,  the  party 


154  JOHN  BROWN 

set  ofif  in  Townsley's  wagon,  except  Weiner,  who,  riding  his 
pony,  gave  them  mounted  escort  as  they  retraced  their  way 
over  the  road  they  had  traversed  in  such  haste  and  excite- 
ment the  night  before.  "As  we  turned  back  with  the  evil 
news  [the  fate  of  Lawrence]  and  had  just  got  to  the  top  of 
the  hill  south  of  the  Wakarusa — the  high  ridge,"  says  Salmon 
Brown,  "a  man  named  Gardner  came  to  us  with  the  news  of 
the  assault  upon  Senator  Sumner  of  Bully  Brooks,*  —  carry- 
ing the  message  hidden  in  his  boot.  At  that  blow  the  men 
went  crazy  —  crazy.  It  seemed  to  be  the  finishing,  decisive 
touch."  Two  men  have  affirmed  that  they  met  the  expedition 
as  it  took  its  way  toward  what  is  now  the  little  hamlet  called 
Lane.  Captain  J.  M.  Anthony  and  a  squad  of  Free  State  men 
encountered  it  near  the  residence  of  Ottawa  Jones,  and  in 
their  surprise  at  seeing  fighting  men  returning  when  Lawrence 
was  in  distress,  asked  eagerly  whither  the  men  in  the  lumber 
wagon  were  bound.  "They  gave  us,"  says  Captain  Anthony, 
"no  answer  except  that  they  were  going  to  attend  to  very  ur- 
gent business  and  would  be  right  back  to  join  us  on  the  march 
to  Lawrence."  ^^  Near  sundown,  between  Pottawatomie  and 
Middle  Creek,  James  Blood  descried  a  wagon  with  a  mounted 
man  alongside,  going  toward  Pottawatomie  Creek.  As  he 
neared  the  wagon,  John  Brown  rose  in  it  and  cried  "Halt!" 
Blood  remembered  afterwards  that  the  men  in  the  wagon 
were  armed  with  rifles,  revolvers,  knives  and  General  Bierce's 
short  heavy  broadswords,  for  John  Brown  had  given  him  one 
of  these  cutlasses  when  in  Lawrence  during  the  Wakarusa 
excitement.  Brown,  Blood  found  to  be  very  indignant  that 
Lawrence  had  been  sacked  without  a  shot  being  fired  in  its 
behalf.  He  denounced  the  leading  Free  State  men  as  cowards 
or  worse.  "His  manner,"  wrote  Colonel  Blood  twenty- three 
years  later,  "was  wild  and  frenzied,  and  the  whole  party 
watched  with  excited  eagerness  every  word  or  motion  of  the 
old  man.  Finally,  as  I  left  them,  he  requested  me  not  to 
mention  the  fact  that  I  had  met  them,  as  they  were  on  a  secret 
expedition  and  did  not  want  anyone  to  know  that  they  were 
in  the  neighborhood."  ^^ 

That  night,  says  Townsley,  they  "drove  down  to  the  edge 

*  Congressman  Brooks,  of  South  Carolina,  assaulted  Senator  Sumner  in  the 
Senate  on  May  22,  1856,  striking  him  on  the  head  with  a  heavy  cane. 


MURDER  ON  THE  POTTAWATOMIE         155 

of  the  timber  between  two  deep  ravines,  and  camped  about 
one  mile  above  Dutch  Henry's  Crossing."  ^^  And  there, 
Townsley  asserts,  John  Brown  told  him  for  the  first  time 
of  his  bloodthirsty  intentions,  and  refused  to  let  him  go 
when  he,  Townsley,  asked  to  be  allowed  to  take  his  team 
and  return  home.  All  the  next  day,  Saturday,  the  24th,  the 
little  company  literally  lay  on  their  arms  in  their  open-air 
camp.  For  it  was  in  the  night  that  John  Brown  proposed  to 
strike  his  blow,  in  order,  Salmon  Brown  declares,  that  they 
might  be  sure  to  catch  their  quarry  in  their  lairs.  "  Maybe," 
he  adds,  "Father  took  into  consideration  the  terrifying  ef- 
fect of  such  a  means."  Certainly,  the  hour  suited  the  deed. 
The  chase  was  trapped;  save  in  one  instance.  Henry  Sher- 
man, whose  absence  in  pursuit  of  wandering  cattle  saved 
his  life  for  another  year,  was  one  of  three  brothers,  German 
in  origin,  and  therefore  known  in  the  community  as  Dutch 
Bill,  Dutch  Henry  and  Dutch  Pete.  Border  Ruffians  by  their 
sympathies  and  their  instincts,  their  character  is  painted 
black  enough  by  their  Free  Soil  neighbors,  who  credited  them 
with  no  honest  ways  of  life,  generally  thought  of  them  as 
ignorant  and  drunken,  living  at  the  crossing  which  bore  the 
name  of  Dutch  Henry,  and  subsisting  by  making  money  out 
of  the  emigrants  or  "lifting"  a  horse  or  a  cow  or  two  from  the 
caravans  as  they  came  by.  For  this  well-known  ford  was  the 
point  where  the  much-used  road  from  Fort  Scott  to  the  Santa 
Fe  trail  and  the  old  California  road,  or  road  to  Oregon,  used 
by  emigrants  going  still  further  west,  crossed  the  Pottawato- 
mie. Weiner's  store  near-by  also  drew  patronage  from  these 
emigrant  parties,  and  to  it  the  Shermans  and  their  pro-slavery 
neighbors  had  carried  their  drunken  threats  of  extermination 
of  the  Abolitionists  that  had  so  stirred  Weiner,  Townsley 
and  Bondi.  Indeed,  the  two  diverse  elements  had  even  come 
to  blows,  as  Henry  Thompson  testifies.  For  several  midwinter 
months  he  had  helped  Weiner  to  keep  his  store.  Returning 
to  it  on  Christmas  Day,  he  found  Weiner  with  an  axe  handle 
beating  "Dutch  Bill"  Sherman,  who  fled  on  the  approach 
of  Thompson.  "He  attacked  me  in  my  own  store,"  said 
Weiner  by  way  of  explanation.  =*  "They  were  brutes  and 
bullies,"  declares  one  woman  who  resided  at  Osawatomie 
at  this  time,  in  speaking  of  the  murdered  men,  and  this 


156  JOHN  BROWN 

seems  to  sum  up  their  character  accurately,  if  the  adjective 
"ignorant"  be  added. 2' 

The  men  of  the  Doyle  family,  father  and  two  sons,  were 
low  "poor  whites"  from  Tennessee,  who,  while  sympathizing 
with  the  pro-slavery  element,  went  to  Kansas  because,  ac- 
cording to  Mrs.  Doyle,  they  had  found  that  slavery  was 
"ruinous  to  white  labor."  ^^  Mrs.  Doyle  herself  was  illiterate, 
and  it  is  altogether  likely  that  the  men  were.  The  family 
seems  to  have  been  very  intimate  with  "Dutch  Bill,"  who 
was  one  of  the  oldest  settlers  in  the  region,  and  considerably 
under  his  influence.  Allen  Wilkinson,  on  the  other  hand, 
was  a  man  of  some  education;  he  was  a  member  of  the  pro- 
slavery  Legislature,  and  returned  from  its  meetings  at  the 
Shawnee  Mission  more  than  ever  a  pro-slavery  man.  George 
W.  Grant  and  his  brother,  Henry  Grant,  have  testified  that 
Wilkinson  was  a  dangerous  man,  whom  everybody  feared; 
"the  most  evil  looking  man"  they  ever  saw,  "who  fearfully 
abused  a  nice  wife,  well  liked  by  the  neighbors."  2'  Wilkin- 
son, too,  was  free  with  his  threats  to  the  Free  Soil  settlers, 
urging  them  to  "clear  out"  and  avoid  trouble.  All  of  them 
were  friendly  with  the  Missourians  who  passed  by,  acting 
as  their  guides  and  advisers.  There  is  also  no  doubt  that 
when  the  Browns  entered  the  camp  of  Buford's  men  as  sur- 
veyors, they  found  these  obnoxious  pro-slavery  neighbors  on- 
good  terms  with  the  invaders.^" 

Not  unnaturally,  a  different  character  was  assigned  after 
their  murders  to  these  men  by  the  pro-slavery  leaders.  Thus, 
Henry  Clay  Pate,  correspondent  of  the  St.  Louis  Republi- 
can and  leader  of  a  pro-slavery  company,  testified  that  "they 
had  no  fault  as  quiet  citizens  but  being  in  favor  of  slavery. 
That  was  the  crime  for  which  they  forfeited  their  lives."  " 
The  Rev.  Martin  White  insisted  to  the  pro-slavery  Legisla- 
ture that  Wilkinson  was  a  noble  man,  whose  "greatest  crime" 
was  that  "he  was  a  member  of  the  first  legislature  in  this 
territory,"  which  crime.  White  added,  was  the  reason  for 
his  death. 32  Congressman  Oliver,  the  Democratic  member 
of  the^  Howard  Committee,  was  satisfied,  after  taking  testi- 
mony in  the  case  of  the  murders,  that  Wilkinson  was  a  quiet, 
inoffensive  man.  "My  husband  was  a  quiet  man,  and  was 
not  engaged  in  arresting  or  disturbing  anybody.    He  took  no 


MURDER  ON  THE  POTTAWATOMIE        157 

active  part  in  the  pro-slavery  cause,  so  as  to  aggravate  the 
Abolitionists,  but  he  was  a  pro-slavery  man,"  was  Mrs.  Wil- 
kinson's characterization  of  her  husband.^'  The  Kansas 
Weekly  Herald  of  Leavenworth  affirmed  on  June  7,  1856,  that 
Wilkinson  was  a  member  of  the  Legislature,  and  that  the  other 
victims  were  "plain,  honest,  peaceable  farming  settlers." 
But  the  weight  of  evidence  is  too  strong  on  the  other  side  to 
make  it  possible  to  accept  this  characterization  as  correct. 
Excepting  perhaps  Wilkinson,  the  others  were  of  the  rough, 
brutal,  disorderly  element  to  be  found  in  every  frontier  out- 
post, whether  it  be  mining  camp  or  farmers'  settlement. 

During  the  morning  of  Saturday,  the  24th,  when  John 
Brown's  party  of  avengers  lay  in  the  timber  between  two 
deep  ravines  a  mile  above  Dutch  Henry's  Crossing,  Towns- 
ley,  so  he  asserts,  did  his  best  to  dissuade  the  leader  and  his 
sons  from  carrying  out  their  plans,  and  to  this  end  "talked 
a  good  deal."  But  Brown  insisted  always  that  it  had  be- 
come necessary  "to  strike  terror  into  the  hearts  of  the  pro- 
slavery  people."  Townsley  even  avers  that  the  day's  delay 
was  due  to  his  protests  and  his  refusal  to  guide  the  company 
up  to  the  forks  of  Mosquito  Creek,  some  five  or  six  miles 
above,  and  point  out  where  pro-slavery  men  resided,  so  that 
Brown's  men  might  sweep  the  creek  of  them  as  they  came 
down.  This  Salmon  Brown  declares  to  be  nonsense,  a  plan 
that  "never  was  dreamed  of."  Moreover,  Weiner,  the  store- 
keeper, might  well  have  been  as  efficient  a  guide  as  Townsley, 
since  he  had  been  in  Kansas  longer  and  naturally  had  a 
wider  acquaintance.  The  delay,  too,  is  not  hard  to  explain. 
The  men  must  have  been  fairly  exhausted  when  they  en- 
camped in  the  timber,  since  they  had  marched  all  the  previous 
night  and,  after  working  all  the  morning,  had  driven  back 
over  rough  roads  between  two  o'clock  and  sundown.  To 
postpone  the  raid  in  order  to  obtain  necessary  sleep  was  most 
natural.  Then,  since  night-time  was  deemed  necessary  to 
trap  the  prey  sought,  the  day  in  camp  was  inevitable.  But 
on  this  fateful  day  the  sun  finally  sank  into  the  prairies,  and 
long  before  it  disappeared,  Townsley  had  resigned  himself  to 
his  situation  sufficiently  to  decide  that  he  would  go  along, 
albeit  unwillingly,  as  he  declares. 

As  for  the  rest,  aside  from  Weiner,  whom  Salmon  Brown 


158  JOHN  BROWN 

describes  as  a   "big,  savage,   bloodthirsty  Austrian"  who 
"  could  not  be  kept  out  of  any  accessible  fight,"  ^*  they  needed 
no  persuasion.   Whether  it  was  the  compelling  personality  of 
their  father,  whose  dominating  manner  and  will-power  later 
led  men  willingly  to  their  death  under  circumstances  against 
which  their  common  sense  revolted,  or  whether  there  was  in 
the  sons  a  sufficient  touch  of  an  inherited  mental  disturb- 
ance to  make  them  less  than  rational  in  their  reasoning,  there 
was  no  attempt  at  a  filial  revolt  against  a  parental  decision, 
even  when  they  went  unwillingly.  Two  sons,  at  least,  Freder- 
ick and  Oliver,  kept  their  hands  unstained, ^^  and  probably 
protested,  only  to  submit  and  accompany  their  father  and 
imperious  commander  as  witnesses  of  the  horrors  of  that 
night,  sharing  the  guilt  of  all  in  the  eyes  of  the  law.  The  other 
brothers,  then  unaccustomed  to  the  sight  of  blood,  who  had 
hitherto  led  the  untroubled  lives  of  plain  American  citizens, 
were  exalted  or  nerved  now  to  deeds  at  which  a  trained  pro- 
fessional soldier  might  easily  and  creditably  shrink.    The 
sword  of   Gideon  was  unsheathed.    About  the  hour  of  ten 
o'clock  the  party,  armed  with  swords,  revolvers  and  rifles, 
proceeded  in  a  northerly  direction,  "  crossing  Mosquito  Creek 
above  the  residence  of  the  Doyles."  Soon  after  crossing  the 
creek,  some  one  of  the  party  knocked  at  the  door  of  a  cabin. 
There  was  no  reply,  but  from  within  came  the  sound  of  a 
gun  rammed  through  the  chinks  of  the  cabin  walls.    It  saved 
the  owner's  life,  for,  relates  Salmon  Brown,  "at  that  we  all 
scattered.   We  did  not  disturb  that  man.   With  some  candle 
wicking  soaked  in  coal  oil  to  light  and  throw  inside,  so  that 
we  could  see  within  while  he  could  not  see  outside,  we  would 
have  managed  it.  But  we  had  none.    It  was  a  method  much 
used  later." 

Thence  it  was  but  a  short  distance  to  the  ill-fated  Doyles'. 
To  add  to  the  natural  terrors  of  the  night  and  of  the  dark 
design,  there  came  to  meet  them,  at  the  very  threshold  of  the 
house,  two  dogs  —  "very  savage  bull  dogs."  One  of  these  sen- 
tinels Townsley  claims  to  have  helped  despatch,  for  though, 
according  to  his  own  story,  an  unwilling  abettor  under  com- 
pulsion, he  carried  one  of  the  deadly  Bierce  swords  and  was 
thus  an  armed  prisoner.  It  was  about  eleven  o'clock,  Mrs. 
Doyle  testified,  that  her  family  heard  a  knock. ^^ 


MURDER  ON  THE  POTTAWATOMIE         159 

"My  husband  got  up  and  went  to  the  door.  Those  outside  in- 
quired for  Mr.  Wilkson  [Wilkinson]  and  where  he  lived.  My  hus- 
band told  them  that  he  would  tell  them.  Mr.  Doyle,  my  husband, 
opened  the  door,  and  several  came  into  the  house,  and  said  that  they 
were  from  the  army.  My  husband  was  a  pro-slavery  man.  They 
told  my  husband  that  he  and  the  boys  must  surrender,  they  were 
their  prisoners.  These  men  were  armed  with  pistols  and  large  knives. 
They  first  took  my  husband  out  of  the  house,  then  they  took  two 
of  my  sons  —  the  two  oldest  ones,  William  and  Drury  —  out,  and 
then  took  my  husband  and  these  two  boys,  William  and  Drury, 
away.  My  son  John  was  spared,  because  I  asked  them  in  tears  to 
spare  him.  In  a  short  time  afterward  I  heard  the  report  of  pistols." 

Thus,  without  warning  or  notice,  her  husband  and  two  sons 
were  torn  from  her  and  despatched.  "When  we  entered  the 
Doyle  cabin,"  says  Salmon  Brown,  "Mrs.  Doyle  stormed, 
raved  at  her  men,  after  we  had  taken  them  prisoners.  'Haven't 
I  told  you  what  you  were  going  to  get  for  the  course  you  have 
been  taking?'  she  scresuned.  'Hush,  mother,  hush,'  replied 
her  husband."  Her  two  boys,  twenty-two  and  twenty  years 
of  age,  were  granted,  like  her  husband,  no  time  to  make  their 
peace,  no  time  to  ask  forgiveness  of  their  sins.  Townsley  af- 
firms that  he,  Frederick  Brown  and  Weiner  were  at  some  dis- 
tance from  the  house,  but  near  enough  to  cry  out  in  protest 
if  he  had  wished  to,  and  near  enough  to  see  that  John  Brown 
"drew  his  revolver  and  shot  old  man  Doyle  in  the  forehead, 
and  Brown's  two  younger  sons  immediately  fell  upon  the 
younger  Doyles  with  their  short  two-edged  swords."  But  in 
this,  according  to  Salmon  Brown,  Townsley  was  mistaken, 
just  as  he  erred  in  insisting  that  Watson  Brown,  then  at 
North  Elba,  was  present  and  playing  the  part  of  executioner. 
"Not  one  of  the  Doyles  ran  a  single  step,"  is  Salmon's  posi- 
tive statement.  "They  fell  where  they  stood.  I  think  that 
the  father  Doyle  was  not  the  first  of  the  three  to  be  killed." 

As  for  John  Brown's  own  part,  he  killed  none  of  them  with 
his  own  hand;  to  this  both  Henry  Thompson  and  Salmon 
Brown  bear  positive  witness,  as  did  John  Brown  himself. 
But  Mrs.  Doyle  did  hear  one  shot  at  least.  Salmon  Brown 
will  not  positively  state  that  his  father  fired  it,  but  admits 
that  no  one  else  in  the  party  pulled  a  trigger.  He  is  at  a  loss 
to  explain  why  the  shot  was  fired.  "It  did  no  possible  good, 
as  a  bullet,  for  Doyle  had  long  been  stone  dead."    And  his 


i6o  JOHN   BROWN 

father  could  therefore  truthfully  say  that  he  had  raised  his 
hand  against  no  living  man.  "I  was  three  hundred  yards 
away  when  the  shot  was  fired,"  is  Henry  Thompson's  state- 
ment. "Those  who  were  on  the  spot  told  me  that  it  was  done 
after  Doyle  was  dead."  Even  with  Oliver  and  Frederick,  a 
younger  and  older  son,  taking  no  part,  the  killings  lasted  but 
a  moment.  Doyle  and  his  two  sons  in  an  instant  lay  lifeless, 
— a  Free  State  warning  to  the  pro-slavery  forces  that  it  was 
to  be  a  tooth  for  a  tooth,  an  eye  for  an  eye,  henceforth,  so  far 
as  one  wing  of  the  Free  State  party  was  concerned.  If  pro- 
slavery  men  had  not  been  made  to  die  when  Lawrence  fell, 
here  were  three  to  even  up  the  score.  "  My  husband,  and  two 
boys,  my  sons,"  testified  the  simple,  untutored,  pitiful  Ma- 
hala  Doyle,  "did  not  come  back  any  more.  I  went  out  next 
morning  in  search  of  them,  and  found  my  husband  and  Wil- 
liam, my  son,  lying  dead  in  the  road  near  together,  about 
two  hundred  yards  from  the  house.  My  other  son  I  did  not 
see  any  more  until  the  day  he  was  buried.  I  was  so  much 
overcome  that  I  went  into  the  house.  They  were  buried  the 
next  day.  On  the  day  of  the  burying  I  saw  the  dead  body  of 
Drury.  Fear  of  myself  and  the  remaining  children  induced 
me  to  leave  the  home  where  we  had  been  living.  We  had 
improved  our  claim  a  little.  I  left  all  and  went  to  the  State 
of  Missouri." 

"I  found  my  father  and  one  brother,  William,  lying  dead 
in  the  road,  about  two  hundred  yards  from  the  house,"  tes- 
tified John  Doyle."  "I  saw  my  other  brother  lying  dead  on 
the  ground,  about  one  hundred  and  fifty  yards  from  the 
house,  in  the  grass,  near  a  ravine;  his  fingers  were  cut  off, 
and  his  arms  were  cut  off;  his  head  was  cut  open ;  there  was  a 
hole  in  his  breast.  William's  head  was  cut  open,  and  a  hole 
was  in  his  jaw,  as  though  it  was  made  by  a  knife,  and  a  hole 
was  also  in  his  side.  My  father  was  shot  in  the  forehead  and 
stabbed  in  the  breast."  "Owen  and  another  killed  the  Doyles," 
says  Salmon  Brown,  and  by  a  process  of  elimination  it  is 
apparent  that  the  other  could  only  have  been  himself.  "  It  is 
not  true,"  Townsley  testifies,  "that  there  was  any  intentional 
mutilation  of  the  bodies  after  they  were  killed.  They  were 
slain  as  quickly  as  possible  and  left,  and  whatever  gashes 
they  received  were  inflicted  in  the  process  of  cutting  them 


MURDER  ON  THE  POTTAWATOMIE       i6i 

down  with  swords.  I  understand  that  the  killing  was  done 
with  these  swords  so  as  to  avoid  alarming  the  neighborhood 
by  the  discharge  of  firearms." 

The  next  man  to  meet  his  fate  at  the  hands  of  John  Brown's 
merciless  party  was  Wilkinson.  The  same  procedure  was 
adopted.  Somewhere  between  the  hours  of  midnight  and  day- 
break, "we  were  disturbed  by  the  barking  of  the  dog,"  Mrs. 
Wilkinson  informed  Congressman  Oliver,  under  oath.^'  She 
continued : 

"I  was  sick  with  the  measles,  and  woke  up  Mr.  Wilkinson,  and 
asked  if  he  heard  the  noise  and  what  it  meant?  He  said  it  was  only 
someone  passing  about,  and  soon  after  was  again  asleep.  It  was  not 
long  before  the  dog  raged  and  barked  furiously,  awakening  me  once 
more;  pretty  soon  I  heard  footsteps  as  of  men  approaching;  saw 
one  pass  by  the  window,  and  some  one  knocked  at  the  door.  I  asked, 
who  is  that?  No  one  answered.  I  awoke  my  husband,  who  asked, 
who  is  that?  Someone  replied,  'I  want  you  to  tell  me  the  way  to 
Dutch  Henry's.'  He  commenced  to  tell  them,  and  they  said  to  him, 
'  Come  out  and  show  us.'  He  wanted  to  go,  but  I  would  not  let  him ; 
he  then  told  them  it  was  difficult  to  find  his  clothes,  and  could  tell 
them  as  well  without  going  out  of  doors.  The  men  out  of  doors, 
after  that,  stepped  back,  and  I  thought  I  could  hear  them  whisper- 
ing; but  they  immediately  returned,  and,  as  they  approached,  one 
of  them  asked  of  my  husband,  'Are  you  a  northern  armist?'  He 
said,  'I  am!'  I  understood  the, answer  to  mean  that  my  husband 
was  opposed  to  the  northern  or  freesoil  party.  I  cannot  say  that  I 
understood  the  question.  My  husband  was  a  pro-slavery  man,  and 
was  a  member  of  the  territorial  legislature  held  at  Shawnee  Mission. 
When  my  husband  said  '  I  am,'  one  of  them  said,  'You  are  our  pris- 
oner. Do  you  surrender?'  He  said,  'Gentlemen,  I  do.'  They  said, 
'open  the  door.'  Mr.  Wilkinson  told  them  to  wait  till  he  made  a 
light;  and  they  replied,  'if  you  don't  open  it,  we  will  open  it  for  you.' 
He  opened  the  door  against  my  wishes,  and  four  men  came  in,  and 
my  husband  was  told  to  put  on  his  clothes,  and  they  asked  him  if 
there  were  not  more  men  about;  they  searched  for  arms,  and  took  a 
gun  and  powder  flask,  all  the  weapon  that  was  about  the  house.  I 
begged  them  to  let  Mr.  Wilkinson  stay  with  me,  saying  that  I  was 
sick  and  helpless,  and  could  not  stay  by  myself.  My  husband  also 
asked  them  to  let  him  stay  with  me  until  he  could  get  someone  to 
wait  on  me;  told  them  that  he  would  not  run  off,  but  would  be  there 
the  next  day,  or  whenever  called  for.  The  old  man,  who  seemed  to 
be  in  command,  looked  at  me  and  then  around  at  the  children,  and 
replied,  'You  have  neighbors.'  I  said,  'So  I  have,  but  they  are  not 
here,  and  I  cannot  go  for  them.'  The  old  man  replied,  'it  matters 
not.'    I  [he?]  told  him  to  get  ready.   My  husband  wanted  to  put  on 


l62  JOHN  BROWN 

his  boots  and  get  ready,  so  as  to  be  protected  from  the  damp  and 
night  air,  but  they  would  n't  let  him.  They  then  took  my  husband 
away.  One  of  them  came  back  and  took  two  saddles ;  I  asked  him 
what  they  were  going  to  do  with  him,  and  he  said, '  take  him  a  pris- 
oner to  the  camp.'  I  wanted  one  of  them  to  stay  with  me.  He  said 
he  would,  but  'they  would  not  let  him.'  After  they  were  gone,  I 
thought  I  heard  my  husband's  voice,  in  complaint,  but  do  not  know; 
went  to  the  door,  and  all  was  still.  Next  morning  Mr.  Wilkinson 
was  found  about  one  hundred  and  fifty  yards  from  the  house  in  some 
dead  brush.  A  lady  who  saw  my  husband's  body,  said  that  there 
was  a  gash  in  his  head  and  in  his  side;  others  said  that  he  was  cut 
in  the  throat  twice." 

"We  divided  our  forces  at  Wilkinson's,  I  think,  into  two 
parties  to  go  on  separate  errands,"  is  Salmon  Brown's  testi- 
mony. "Henry  Thompson  and  Weiner  killed  Wilkinson  and 
Sherman.  My  party  was  not  present  when  Wilkinson  and 
Sherman  were  killed.  Townsley  could  not  have  been  present 
at  each  crisis,  as  he  implies.  No  one  else  was."  Yet  Townsley 
attributes  Wilkinson's  murder  to  "one  of  the  younger  Browns" 
and  adds:  "After  he  was  killed  his  body  was  dragged  to  one 
side  and  left."  Henry  Thompson  states  that  he  was  not  pre- 
sent when  the  Doyles  were  killed,  but  is  silent  as  to  the  fate 
of  Wilkinson  and  Sherman. 

The  "old  man"  to  whom  Mrs.  Wilkinson's  pleading  for 
her  husband's  life  had  "mattered  not"  was  still  unplacated 
when  Wilkinson's  dead  body  lay  in  the  brush.  The  next  and 
last  man  to  die  was  William  Sherman.  "We  then  crossed  the 
Pottawatomie  and  came  to  the  house  of  Henry  Sherman," 
is  Townsley 's  tale.  "Here  John  Brown  and  the  party,  except- 
ing Frederick  Brown,  Weiner  and  myself,  who  were  left  out- 
side a  short  distance  from  the  door,  went  into  the  house  and 
brought  out  one  or  two  persons,  talked  with  them  some,  and 
then  took  them  in  again.  They  afterward  brought  out  William 
Sherman,  Dutch  Henry's  brother,  marched  him  down  into 
the  Pottawatomie  Creek,  where  he  was  slain  with  swords 
by  Brown's  two  youngest  sons  and  left  lying  in  the  creek." 
But  Townsley  was  again  wrong  as  to  his  details,  for  the  house 
was  not  Sherman's,  but  that  of  James  Harris,  who  promptly 
made  afifidavit  thereto  and  thus  related  what  befell :  ^^ 

"On  last  Sunday  morning,  about  two  o'clock,  (the  25th  of  May 
last,)  whilst  my  wife  and  child  and  myself  were  in  bed  in  the  house 


MURDER  ON  THE  POTTAWATOMIE         163 

where  we  lived,  we  were  aroused  by  a  company  of  men  who  said 
they  belonged  to  the  northern  army,  and  who  were  each  armed 
with  a  sabre  and  two  revolvers,  two  of  whom  I  recognized,  namely,  a 
Mr.'Brown,  whose  given  name  I  do  not  remember,  commonly  known 
by  the  appellation  of  'old  man  Brown,'  and  his  son,  Owen  Brown. 
They  came  in  the  house  and  approached  the  bedside  where  we  were 
lying,  and  ordered  us,  together  with  three  other  men  who  were  in 
the  same  house  with  me,  to  surrender;  that  the  northern  army  was 
upon  us,  and  it  would  be  no  use  for  us  to  resist.  The  names  of  these 
other  three  men  who  were  then  in  my  house  with  me  are,  William 
Sherman,  John  S.  Whiteman,  the  other  man  I  did  not  know.  They 
were  stopping  with  me  that  night.  They  had  bought  a  cow  from 
Henry  Sherman,  and  intended  to  go  home  the  next  morning.  When 
they  [the  Browns]  came  up  to  the  bed,  some  had  drawn  sabres  in 
their  hands,  and  some  revolvers.  They  then  took  into  their  pos- 
session two  rifles  and  a  Bowie  knife,  which  I  had  there  in  the  room 
—  there  was  but  one  room  in  my  house  —  and  afterward  ransacked 
the  whole  establishment  in  search  of  ammunition.  They  then  took 
one  of  these  three  men,  who  were  staying  in  my  house,  out.  (This 
was  the  man  whose  name  I  did  not  know.)  He  came  back.  They 
then  took  me  out,  and  asked  me  if  there  were  any  more  men  about 
the  place.  I  told  them  there  were  not.  They  searched  the  place, 
but  found  none  others  but  we  four.  They  asked  me  where  Henry 
Sherman  was.  Henry  Sherman  was  a  brother  to  William  Sherman. 
I  told  theiri  that  he  was  out  on  the  plains  in  search  of  some  cattle 
which  he  had  lost.  They  asked  if  I  had  ever  taken  any  hand  in  aid- 
ing pro-slavery  men  in  coming  to  the  Territory  of  Kansas,  or  had 
ever  taken  any  hand  in  the  last  troubles  at  Lawrence,  and  asked 
me  whether  I  had  ever  done  the  free  State  party  any  harm  or  ever 
intended  to  do  that  party  any  harm ;  they  asked  me  what  made  me 
live  at  such  a  place.  I  then  answered  that  I  could  get  higher  wages 
there  than  anywhere  else.  They  asked  me  if  there  were  any  bridles 
or  saddles  about  the  premises.  I  told  them  there  was  one  saddle, 
which  they  took,  and  they  also  took  possession  of  Henry  Sherman's 
horse,  which  I  had  at  my  place,  and  made  me  saddle  him.  They 
then  said  if  I  would  answer  no  to  all  questions  which  they  had  asked 
me,  they  would  let  [me?]  loose.  Old  Mr.  Brown  and  his  son  then 
went  into  the  house  with  me.  The  other  three  men,  Mr.  William 
Sherman,  Mr.  Whiteman,  and  th«  stranger  were  in  the  house  all 
this  time.  After  old  man  Brown  and  his  son  went  into  the  house  with 
me,  old  man  Brown  asked  Mr.  Sherman  "to  go  out  with  him,  and 
Mr.  Sherman  then  went  out  with  old  Mr.  Brown,  and  another  man 
came  into  the  house  in  Brown's  place.  I  heard  nothing  more  for 
about  fifteen  minutes.  Two  of  the  northern  army,  as  they  styled 
themselves,  stayed  on  with  us  until  we  heard  a  cap  burst,  and  then 
these  two  men  left.  That  morning  about  ten  o'clock  I  found  Wil- 
liam Sherman  dead  in  the  creek  near  my  house.  I  was  looking  for 
Mr.  Sherman,  as  he  had  not  come  back,  I  thought  he  had  been  mur- 


164  JOHN  BROWN 

dered.  I  took  Mr.  William  Sherman  out  of  the  creek  and  examined 
him.  Mr.  Whiteman  was  with  me.  Sherman's  skull  was  split  open 
in  two  places  and  some  of  his  brains  was  washed  out  by  the  water. 
A  large  hole  was  cut  in  his  breast,  and  his  left  hand  was  cut  off  ex- 
cept a  little  piece  of  skin  on  one  side.  We  buried  him." 

Here  Thompson  and  Weiner  were  again  the  executioners, 
according  to  Salmon  Brown.  "Neither  of  the  younger  sons, 
nor  Owen,  was  present  when  William  Sherman  was  killed." 
Then,  at  last,  John  Brown  was  satisfied.  He  had  told  Towns- 
ley  that  he  must  take  matters  into  his  own  hands  "for  the 
protection  of  the  Free  State  settlers;  that  it  was  better  that 
a  score  of  bad  men  should  die  than  that  one  man  who  came 
here  to  make  Kansas  a  Free  State  should  be  driven  out." 
The  rising  Sabbath  sun  shone  on  five  mutilated  bodies,  their 
very  starkness,  in  their  executioner's  eyes,  a  protection  to  the 
Free  State  settlers  for  many  miles  around.  The  bloody  night's 
work  was  over.   Confusion  now  had  made  his  masterpiece. 

Three  and  one  half  years  later,  when  in  jail  and  under 
sentence  of  death,  John  Brown  received  the  following  letter 
purporting  to  come  from  Mahala  Doyle.  Mrs.  Doyle  could 
not  write,  and  the  letter  is  obviously,  in  its  style,  beyond  her 
homely  powers  of  expression,  though  she  may  have  signed  it, 
and  there  is  nothing  in  it  she  might  not  have  said  in  her  own 
way: 

Chattanooga,  Tennessee  Nov.  20th,  1859." 

John  Brown:  —  Sir, — Altho'  vengence  is  not  mine  I  confess 
that  I  do  feel  gratified,  to  hear  that  you  were  stopped  in  your  fiend- 
ish career  at  Harper's  Ferry,  with  the  loss  of  your  two  sons,  you 
can  now  appreciate  my  distress  in  Kansas,  when  you  then  &  there 
entered  my  house  at  midnight  and  arrested  my  Husband  and  two 
boys,  and  took  them  out  of  the  yard  and  in  cold  blood  shot  them 
dead  in  my  hearing,  you  cant  say  you  done  it  to  free  slaves,  we  had 
none  and  never  expected  to  own  one,  but  has  only  made  me  a  poor 
disconsolate  widow  with  helpless  children,  while  I  feel  for  your 
folly  I  do  hope  &  trust  that  you  will  meet  your  just  reward.  0  how 
it  pairied  my  heart  to  hear  the  dying  groans  of  my  Husband  &  chil- 
dren, if  this  scrawl  gives  you  any  consolation  you  are  welcome  to  it 

Mahala  Doyle. 

N.  B.  My  son  John  Doyle  whose  life  I  beged  of  you  is  now  grown 
up  and  is  very  desirous  to  be  at  Charlestown  on  the  day  of  your 
execution,  would  certainly  be  there  if  his  means  would  permit  it 
that  he  might  adjust  the  rope  around  your  neck  if  Gov.  Wise  would 
permit  it.  M.  Doyle. 


MURDER  ON  THE  POTTAWATOMIE         165 

Townsley  asserts  that  Brown  was  intent  upon  killing 
George  Wilson,  Probate  Judge  of  Anderson  County,  whom  he 
hoped  to  find  at  Sherman's,  for  the  reason  that  he  had  been 
warning  Free  State  men  to  leave  the  Territory.  Townsley 
claimed  to  have  received  such  a  notice  himself.  But  Salmon 
Brown  and  Henry  Thompson  deny  positively  that  Wilson 
was  on  the  proscribed  list.  Be  this  as  it  may,  there  was  no 
further  search  for  any  one,  and  the  blood-stained  party  went 
back  to  the  camping-place  in  the  timber  between  the  two  deep 
ravines,  their  swords,  "unmannerly  breached  with  gore," 
being  first  washed  in  Pottawatomie  Creek.  Just  before  day- 
light, Townsley  avers,  Owen  Brown  came  to  him  and  said, 
"There  shall  be  no  more  such  work  as  that."  In  the  after- 
noon the  eight  men  started  back  to  rejoin  the  Pottawatomie 
company  under  John  Brown,  Jr.  They  found  it  about  mid- 
night, encamped  near  Ottawa  Jones's  farm,  where,  as  we  have 
seen,  the  news  of  their  awful  deed  had  already  preceded 
them,  and  where  John  Brown,  Jr.,  had  resigned  the  cap- 
taincy of  the  company.  As  soon  as  Jason  Brown,  whose 
hatred  of  blood-letting  had  deprived  him  of  his  father's  con- 
fidence when  violent  deeds  were  under  way,  met  his  father 
face  to  face,  he  encountered  him  tremblingly,  —  for  this  was 
the  "worst  shock"  that  ever  came  to  him  in  his  life.^'  "Did 
you, "  he  demanded  of  his  father,  "have  anything  to  do  with 
the  killing  of  those  men  on  the  Pottawatomie?"  "I  did  not 
do  it,"  the  father  replied,  "but  I  approved  of  it."  "I  spoke 
to  him  as  I  then  felt  about  it,"  continues  Jason;  "I  did  not 
fully  understand  the  cause  of  it  then,  and  told  him  I  was  very 
sorry  the  act  had  been  done.  I  said  to  him : '  I  think  it  was  an 
uncalled  for,  wicked  act.'  He  said:  'God  is  my  judge.  It  was 
absolutely  necessary  as  a  measure  of  self-defence,  and  for 
the  defence  of  others.'  I  cannot  give  his  exact  language,  but 
this  was  the  purport  of  it.  It  seemed  to  hurt  his  feelings  that 
I  felt  so  about  it.  He  soon  after  left  us,  and  John  and  I  re- 
turned to  Osawatomie."  Not,  however,  until  he  had  sought 
additional  information.  He  inquired  of  his  brother  Frederick 
if  he  knew  who  the  murderers  were.  "Yes  I  do,  but  I  can't 
tell  you."  "  Did  you  kill  any  of  them  with  your  own  hands?  " 
"No;  when  I  came  to  see  what  manner  of  work  it  was,  I 
could  not  do  it."   The  tears  rolled  down  Frederick's  face  as  he 


i66  JOHN  BROWN 

spoke,  Jason  reports;  and  this  eye-witness  of  the  tragedy  seems 
never  to  have  learned  to  approve  of  it.  In  this  he  was  in  marked 
contrast  to  Townsley,  for,  unwilling  participant  as  he  was,  he 
stated  that  after  the  event  he  became  convinced  that  it  resulted 
in  good  to  the  Free  State  settlers  on  Pottawatomie  Creek. 

Jason  and  John  Brown,  Jr.,  felt  too  badly  to  join  forces 
with  their  father.  The  Pottawatomie  Company  started  for 
home  under  H.  H.  Williams  in  a  very  different  frame  of  mind 
toward  the  men  they  had  so  gayly  cheered  out  of  camp  but 
three  days  before,  either  because  of  a  sudden  repentance,  or 
of  their  having  expected  a  stand-up  fight  instead  of  a  slaugh- 
ter, or  because  the  deed  in  its  reality  seemed  so  much  worse 
than  in  anticipation  that  those  in  the  secret  joined  the  others 
in  their  detestation  of  it.  John  Brown  and  his  fellow  execu- 
tioners fell  behind  the  company,  after  crossing  Middle  Creek, 
and  struck  off  by  themselves  in  the  direction  of  Jason's  and 
the  younger  John's  homes.  Jason  and  John  headed  not  for 
their  cabins  but  for  Osawatomie.  Already  the  roads  were 
lined  with  men,  so  Jason  narrates,*^  from  Palmyra  to  Osa- 
watomie, looking  for  the  Browns.  The  brothers  got  to  the 
Adair  cabin,  where  both  their  wives  had  taken  refuge  during 
their  absence,  at  about  9  p.  m.  Adair  came  to  the  door  with 
his  gun.  "Who's  there?"  said  he.  "John  and  I."  "Can't 
keep  you  here.  Our  lives  are  threatened.  Every  moment  we 
expect  to  have  our  house  burned  over  our  heads."  To  their 
entreaties,  he  only  repeated:  "I  cannot  keep  you."  "Here 
are  we  two  alone,"  pleaded  Jason.  "We  have  eaten  nothing 
all  day.  Let  us  lie  on  your  floor  until  morning  —  in  your 
out-house  —  anywhere."  Then  Mrs.  Adair  came  and  asked, 
"Did  you  have  anything  to  do  with  the  murders  on  the 
Pottawatomie?"  "I  did  not,"  said  Jason.  "And  John  had 
no  action  in  it."  "Then,"  said  Mrs.  Adair,  "you  may  stay. 
But  we  risk  our  lives  in  keeping  you."  They  gave  the  two 
a  mattress  on  the  floor  beside  the  Adairs'  bed,  and  the  four 
talked  till  midnight,  Jason  telling  all  he  knew  of  the  affair. 
John  lay  groaning.  In  the  middle  of  the  night  John  spoke  to 
his  Aunt  Florilla.  "  I  feel  that  I  am  going  insane,"  said  he,  and 
in  the  morning  he  was  insane.  Jason  had  slept  after  a  while, 
but  John  could  not.  His  mind  was  gone,  yet  not  so  far  gone 
but  that  he  was  able  to  understand  and  to  acquiesce  when 


SALMON    BROWN 


JOHN   BROWN,  jiL. 


JASON   BROWN 


OWEN    BROWN 


FOUR   OF  JOHN    BROWN'S   SONS 
In  later  years 


MURDER  ON  THE  POTTAWATOMIE         167 

Jason  advised  him  to  hide,  and  to  act  upon  it.  About  two  or 
three  o'clock  that  same  night,  a  knock  had  been  heard  at  the 
door.  "Who's  there?"  called  out  Adair.  "Owen."  "Getaway, 
get  away  as  quick  as  you  can !  You  endanger  our  lives."  Adair 
would  not  parley  or  let  him  in.  "You  are  a  vile  murderer, 
a  marked  man!"  said  he.^'  "I  intend  to  be  a  marked  man!" 
shouted  Owen,  and  rode  away  —  on  one  of  the  murdered 
men's  horses. 

The  Rev.  Mr.  Adair  was  not  the  only  one  to  feel  outraged 
at  first  by  the  murders  committed  by  his  relatives.  John 
T.  Grant  and  Judge  Hanway,  two  of  the  best  Free  State  set- 
tlers in  that  region,  talked  the  matter  over,  so  J.  G.  Grant,  a 
son  of  the  former,  recollects,"  and  agreed  that  John  Brown's 
action  was  inexcusable.  He  had  taken,  they  said,  the  mo- 
ment when  the  families  of  all  the  men  who  had  gone  to  the 
rescue  of  Lawrence  were  helpless,  to  commit  a  crime  which 
invited  and  provoked  a  vengeful  attack  upon  the  settlement. 
Was  that  sane  or  decent,  they  asked?  And  was  it  excusable 
for  ihim,  after  the  murder,  to  march  away  from  the  seat 
of  danger  and  rejoin  the  company  at  Ottawa  Jones's,  thus 
leaving  the  women  and  children  more  than  ever  helpless? 
Not  until  some  time  afterwards  did  Adair  and  Hanway,  like 
Townsley,  come  around  to  an  approval  of  the  deed  as  they 
saw  it  in  retrospect.  "Last  Sunday  or  Monday,"  wrote  on 
May  31,  1856,  James  H.  Carruth,  another  Osawatomie  Free 
State  settler  of  character,  to  the  Watertown,  New  York,  Re- 
former, ^  ^ "  five  pro-slavery  men  were  killed  seven  or  eight  miles 
from  here.  It  is  said  that  they  had  threatened  to  hang  another 
pro-slavery  man  who  had  sold  provisions  to  the  free  state 
men  unless  he  left  the  territory  in  a  few  hours,  and  that  one 
of  them  had  been  around  the  neighborhood  brandishing  his 
bowie-knife  and  threatening  to  kill  people.  It  was  murder, 
nevertheless,  and  the  free-state  men  here  cooperate  with  the 
pro-slavery  men  in  endeavoring  to  arrest  the  murderers." 
"Threatened  and  ordered  to  leave  in  given  time  under  pen- 
alty of  death,  some  few  persons  committed  the  horrid  murders 
at  Pottawatomie  10  miles  above,"  was  the  way  O.  C.  Brown 
described  the  crime  on  June  24,  1856,  in  a  letter  to  a  friend. "« 
The  writer  was  no  relative  of  the  murderers,  but  a  staunch 
Free  State  man  and  a  leader  at  Osawatomie.    H.  L.  Jones, 


i68  JOHN  BROWN 

another  settler,  declares  that  the  act  was  generally  believed 
by  Free  State  men  to  be  warranted  at  the  time,  but  that 
"policy  dictated  that  the  deed  should  be  disavowed  as  having 
general  disapproval."  *''  George  Thompson,  a  settler  who  lived 
four  miles  northeast  of  the  Brown  claims,  testified,  in  1894, 
that  "at  the  time  of  the  executions  of  the  Doyles,  Wilkinson 
and  Sherman,  with  many  of  my  neighbors  I  did  not  approve 
the  act,  but  since,  on  more  fully  understanding  the  circum- 
stances, I  believe  the  act  to  have  been  wise  and  justifiable."  " 
Three  days  after  the  murders,  a  public  meeting  was  held 
in  Osawatomie,  of  which  C.  H.  Price  was  chairman  and  H.  H. 
Williams  secretary.  It  adopted  unanimously  the  following 
emphatic  resolutions: 

"Whereas,  An  outrage  of  the  darkest  and  foulest  nature  has  been 
committed  in  our  midst  by  some  midnight  assassins  unknown,  who 
have  taken  five  of  our  citizens  at  the  hour  of  midnight  from  their 
homes  and  families,  and  murdered  and  mangled  them  in  the  most 
awful  manner;  to  prevent  a  repetition  of  these  deeds,  we  deem  it 
necessary  to  adopt  some  measures  for  our  mutual  protection  and  to 
aid  and  assist  in  bringing  these  desperadoes  to  justice.  Under  these 
circumstances  we  propose  to  act  up  to  the  following  resolutions: 

"  Resolved,  That  we  will  from  this  time  lay  aside  all  sectional 
and  political  feelings  and  act  together  as  men  of  reason  and  common 
sense,  determined  to  oppose  all  men  who  are  so  ultra  in  their  views 
as  to  denounce  men  of  opposite  opinion. 

"  Resolved,  That  we  will  repudiate  and  discountenance  all  organ- 
ized bands  of  men  who  leave  their  homes  for  the  avowed  purpose  of 
exciting  others  to  acts  of  violence,  believing  it  to  be  the  duty  of  all 
good  disposed  citizens  to  stay  at  home  during  these  exciting  times 
and  protect  and  if  possible  restore  the  peace  and  harmony  of  the 
neighborhood ;  furthermore  we  will  discountenance  all  armed  bodies 
of  men  who  may  come  amongst  us  from  any  other  part  of  the  Ter- 
ritory or  from  the  States  unless  said  parties  shall  come  under  the 
authority  of  the  United  States. 

"  Resolved,  That  we  pledge  ourselves,  individually  and  collectively, 
to  prevent  a  recurrence  of  a  similar  tragedy  and  to  ferret  out  and 
hand  over  to  the  criminal  authorities  the  perpetrators  for  punishment. 

C.  H.  Price,  President 

R.  Golding,  Chairman 

R.  Gilpatrick 
"H.  H.  Williams*  W.  C.  McDow  \  Committee" 

Secretary  S.  V.  Vandaman 

A.  Castele 

John  Blunt 
,  *  If  Salmon  Brown's  memory  of  H.  H.  Williams's  instigation  of  the  murders 


MURDER  ON  THE  POTTAWATOMIE         169 

The  Kansas  Weekly  Herald  of  Leavenworth,  on  June  14,  in 
printing  these  resolutions, ^^  says:  "The  outlaws  that  are  now 
prowling  about  over  the  country  and  murdering  harmless  and 
innocent  men,  it  will  be  seen,  have  been  denounced  publicly  by 
persons  of  their  own  political  opinions.  The  President  of  the 
meeting  is  a  Pro-slavery  man,  and  the  Secretary,  Free  State." 
"  The  respectability  of  the  parties  and  the  cruelties  attending 
these  murders  have  produced  an  extraordinary  state  of  excite- 
ment in  that  portion  of  the  territory,  which  has,  heretofore, 
remained  comparatively  quiet,"  Governor  Shannon  reported 
on  May  31,  1856,  to  President  Pierce.^"  "The  effect  of  this 
massacre  on  the  inhabitants  of  the  creeks  was  greatly  to  alarm 
both  parties.  The  pro-slavery  settlers  almost  entirely  left  at 
once  and  the  Free  State  people  were  constantly  fearful,"  was 
the  statement  of  George  W.  and  H.  C.  Grant,  also  sons  of  J.  T. 
Grant. ^1  "No  one  can  defend  the  action  of  the  marshal's  posse 
at  Lawrence,  in  burning  the  hotel,  destroying  the  printing- 
press  and  other  outrages,"  wrote  Major  John  Sedgwick,  First 
Cavalry,  from  Fort  Leavenworth,  on  June  11,  1856,  seven- 
teen days  after  the  Pottawatomie  massacre,  and  just  eight 
years  before  he  gave  his  life  for  the  Union  as  a  distinguished 
major-general  of  volunteers  in  the  battle  of  Spottsylvania, 
"but  no  life  was  lost,  no  one  was  threatened  or  felt  himself 
in  danger.  In  retaliation  for  this  act,  inoffensive  citizens  have 
been  plundered,  their  houses  robbed  and  burned,  and  five 
men  were  taken  out  of  their  beds,  their  throats  cut,  their  ears 
cut  off,  their  persons  gashed  more  horribly  than  our  savages 
have  ever  done.  I  sincerely  think  that  most  of  the  atrocities 
have  been  committed  by  the  free-soil  party,  but  I  cannot  think 
that  they  countenance  such  acts  —  that  is,  the  respectable 
class."  52 

If  Major  Sedgwick  was  correct  in  his  estimate  of  the  atti- 
tude of  the  Free  State  men  toward  midnight  assassination, 
at  the  hour  he  wrote,  it  is  undeniable  that  as  time  passed, 
opinions  about  Brown's  actions  began  to  change.  "I  never 
had  much  doubt  that  Capt.  Brown  was  the  author  of  the  blow 
at  Pottawatomie,  for  the  reason  that  he  was  the  only  man 
who  comprehended  the  situation,  and  saw  the  absolute  neces- 

is  correct,  his  serving  at  this  settler's  meeting  convicts  Williams  of  almost  incred- 
ible hypocrisy  and  cowardice. 


170  JOHN  BROWN 

sity  of  some  such  blow  and  had  the  nerve  to  strike  it,"  wrote 
Governor  Charles  Robinson ,  February  5,1878,  nearly  two  years 
before  Townsley's  confession  was  published."  Judge  Han- 
way,  as  we  have  already  seen,  altered  his  position  radically, 
and  in  the  following  statement  of  February  I,  1878,  accurately 
summarizes  the  progress  of  public  opinion  in  the  neighborhood 
of  the  crime: 

".  .  .  So  far  as  public  opinion  in  the  neighborhood,  where  the 
affair  took  place,  is  concerned,  I  believe  I  may  state  that  the  first 
news  of  the  event  produced  such  a  shock  that  public  opinion  was 
considerably  divided;  but  after  the  whole  circumstances  became 
known,  there  was  a  reaction  in  public  opinion  and  the  Free  State 
settlers  who  had  claims  on  the  creek  considered  that  Capt.  Brown 
and  his  party  of  eight  had  performed  a  justifiable  act,  which  saved 
their  homes  and  dwellings  from  threatened  raids  of  the  proslavery 
party."" 

Thomas  Wentworth  Higginson,  in  his  'Cheerful  Yester- 
days,' states: 

"In  regard  to  the  most  extreme  act  of  John  Brown's  Kansas 
career,  the  so-called  'Pottawatomie  massacre'  of  May  24,  1856, 1 
can  testify  that  in  September  of  that  year,  there  appeared  to  be  but 
one  way  of  thinking  among  the  Kansas  Free  State  men.  ...  I 
heard  of  no  one  who  did  not  approve  of  the  act,  and  its  beneficial 
effects  were  universally  asserted  —  Governor  Robinson  himself  fully 
endorsing  it  to  me.  .  .  ."  °^ 

How  may  the  killings  on  the  Pottawatomie,  this  terrible 
violation  of  the  statute  and  the  moral  laws,  be  justified?  This 
is  the  question  which  has  confronted  every  student  of  John 
Brown's  life  since  it  was  definitely  established  that  Brown 
was,  if  not  actually  a  principal  in  the  crime,  an  accessory  and 
an  instigator.  There  have  been  advanced  many  excuses  for 
the  killings,  and  a  number  of  them  deserve  careful  scrutiny. 
That  there  may  be  times  in  a  newly  settled  country  when  it 
becomes  necessary  for  the  conservative  elements  to  take  the 
law  into  their  own  hands,  in  the  absence  of  proper  judicial 
machinery,  lest  the  community  fall  into  a  state  of  utter  law- 
lessness and  anarchy,  has  been  admitted  ever  since  lynch 
law  brought  order  out  of  chaos  in  San  Francisco  in  1849.  But 
it  has  similarly  been  recognized  that  even  this  wild  justice, 
when  set  afoot,  must  follow  a  certain  procedure ;  that  commit- 


MURDER  ON  THE  POTTAWATOMIE         171 

tees  of  safety  or  vigilance  should  be  formed  and  a  kind  of 
drum-head  trial  be  instituted  for  the  purpose  of  giving  the 
accused  men  some  opportunity  to  be  heard  in  their  own  de- 
fence. History  shows,  moreover,  that  lynch  law  should  only 
be  proclaimed  and  obeyed  for  the  briefest  of  periods,  lest  the 
second  state  be  worse  than  the  first;  and  that,  even  when  in- 
stituted, public  proceedings  on  the  part  of  the  self-appointed 
regulators  are  essential,  both  in  order  to  make  the  punish- 
ments as  deterrent  as  possible,  and  to  persuade  the  commu- 
nity that  it  is  justice,  however  rude,  that  is  being  dispensed. 
In  Kansas  in  1856  the  situation  was  different  from  that  of 
California  in  1849-50,  in  that  most  of  the  existing  lawless- 
ness had  its  origin  largely  in  the  national  politics  of  the  day. 
That  there  were  the  same  rude  and  dangerous  characters  to  be 
found  on  every  frontier  is  proved  by  the  recital  of  the  crimes 
committed  in  Kansas  prior  to  the  Pottawatomie  murders.  In 
the  case  of  Kansas,  the  high  character  of  part  of  the  emigra- 
tion was  offset  by  the  lawless  character  of  the  Border  Ruffians. 
Slavery  itself  tended  to  that  overbearing  lawlessness  which 
is  inevitable  wherever  the  fate  of  a  dark-colored  people  is 
placed  unreservedly  in  the  hands  of  whites.  It  was  the  spirit 
of  intolerance  and  lawlessness  bred  by  slavery  which  dictated 
the  destruction  of  Lawrence  and  made  the  abuse  of  the  ballot- 
boxes  seem  proper  and  justifiable.  But,  granting  that  there 
was  friction  full  of  grave  possibilities  between  a  handful  of  the 
pro-slavery  settlers  on  the  Pottawatomie  and  their  Free  Soil 
neighbors,  it  is  by  no  means  clear  either  that  the  conditions 
prior  to  the  killings  were  so  grave  as  to  demand  the  establish- 
ment of  martial  law,  or  that  they  called  for  the  installation 
of  vigilance  committees  to  inflict  extreme  penalties  upon 
the  desperadoes.  Not  a  single  person  had  been  killed  in  the 
region  around  Osawatomie,  either  by  the  lawless  characters 
or  by  armed  representatives  of  the  pro-slavery  cause.  The 
instances  of  brutality  or  murder  narrated  in  the  preceding 
chapters  all  took  place  miles  to  the  north,  in  the  vicinity 
of  Lawrence  or  Leavenworth.  Beyond  doubt  the  publica- 
tion of  these  atrocities  inflamed  not  only  the  Browns,  but 
kindled  the  anger  and  curdled  the  blood  of  every  Free  Soil 
settler  who  read  of  them.  Yet  the  companies  that  set  forth 
from  Osawatomie  to  Lawrence  deemed  it  quite  safe  to  leave 


172  JOHN  BROWN 

the  settlements  to  themselves,  despite  the  character  of  the 
Shermans  and  the  Doyles  and  certain  occurrences  that  might 
well  have  given  ground  for  uneasiness. 

What  those  occurrences  were  becomes  of  great  importance, 
because  many  loose  statements  about  them  have  been  brought 
forward  from  time  to  time  as  affording  ample  justification 
for  the  Pottawatomie  blood-letting.  The  most  careful  search 
for  and  weighing  of  many  testimonies,  contemporary  and 
reminiscent,  establishes  in  the  neighborhood  of  Osawatomie 
only  five  definite  pro-slavery  offences,  after  hearsay  recollec- 
tions and  wholly  unsubstantiated  stories  are  eliminated.  It 
seems  to  be  established  beyond  doubt  that  Poindexter  Manes, 
a  Free  Soil  settler,  was  knocked  down  and  beaten  for  having 
a  New  York  Tribune  in  his  pocket.  ^^  Less  well  substantiated 
is  the  case  of  one  Baker,  a  Vermonter,  living  on  the  Pottawato- 
mie, who  was  taken  from  his  cabin  and  strung  up  to  a  tree, 
but  who  was  cut  down  in  time  to  save  his  life.  There  is  no 
record  of  his  assailants,  nor  can  the  time  be  accurately  fixed 
beyond  that  it  was  in  the  month  of  April."  To  the  Doyles 
and  Shermans  is  attributed  the  frightening  of  a  woman  named 
Holmes,  who  was  nearing  confinement,  by  the  brandishing 
of  a  knife  and  the  demand  that  she  reveal  the  whereabouts 
of  the  men  of  her  family.  It  is  variously  stated  that  she  died 
and  that  she  "came  near  dying,"  in  consequence.^*  Along  the 
same  line  and  more  important  is  the  statement  that  "Dutch 
Bill,"  in  the  absence  of  the  men  on  their  trip  to  Lawrence, 
entered  the  cabin  of  John  T.  Grant  and  attempted  an  assault 
upon  the  person  of  Mary  Grant,  his  daughter.  This  story  is 
the  basis  for  the  allegation  that  a  messenger  reached  John 
Brown  in  the  first  night's  camp,  near  Prairie  City,  and  re- 
ported the  attack  upon  Mary  Grant,  and  that  the  persons  of 
the  women  of  his  own  family  had  been  threatened.  Fortu- 
nately, Mary  Grant,  as  well  as  Mrs.  John  Brown,  Jr.,  is  still 
alive.*  The  latter  states  positively  that  the  women  of  the 
settlement  were  never  harmed.**  In  this  she  is  emphatically 
borne  out  by  a  contemporary  declaration  of  Jason  Brown  in 
a  letter  to  North  Elba  on  June  28,  1856,  a  month  after  the 
killings:  " No  women  have  been  injured  yet;  so  far  as  I  know. 
Some  of  the  five  pro-slavery  men  who  were  killed  had  threat- 
*  Since  the  above  was  written,  Mary  Grant  Brown  has  died. 


MURDER  ON  THE  POTTAWATOMIE         173 

ened  the  lives  of  Free  State  men  near  them;  and  also  to  cut 
the  throat  of  a  young  woman,  a  neighbor."'"  As  Jason 
Brown's  wife  was  with  him  in  Kansas,  it  is  only  natural  to 
suppose  that  if  her  safety  and  that  of  his  sister-in-law  had 
been  in  danger,  he  would  have  reported  it.  Salmon  Brown 
affirms  that  :  ' '  The  statement  that  women  were  in  any  way 
molested  is  entirely  without  foundation."  Mary  Grant,  the 
young  woman  neighbor,  whose  throat  was  threatened  at  the 
time,  a  remarkably  pretty  and  attractive  young  woman,  who 
had  never  feared  to  go  freely  to  Wilkinson's  post-office  and 
to  meet  there  the  Doyles  and  Shermans,  told  recently  this 
story  of  her  experience  with  "Dutch  Bill,"  which  experience 
is  the  sole  basis  for  the  fabrication  that  John  Brown  was 
recalled  because  Free  State  women  were  in  danger: " 

"  Dutch  Bill  arrived  at  our  house,  one  day,  horribly  drunk,  with 
a  whiskey  bottle  with  a  corncob  stopper,  and  an  immense  butcher 
knife  in  his  belt.  Mr.  Grant,  my  father,  was  sick  in  bed,  but  when 
they  told  him  that  Bill  Sherman  was  coming,  in  that  state,  he  said: 
'  Put  my  shot  gun  beside  the  bed.'  There  was  also  a  neighbor  pre- 
sent, who  was  armed.  'Old  woman,'  said  Bill  Sherman  to  my  mo- 
ther, '  you  and  I  are  pretty  good  friends,  but  damn  your  daughter. 
I  '11  drink  her  heart's  blood.'  Yet  my  little  brother  Charley,  a  mere 
boy  of  twelve  or  fourteen,  succeeded  in  cajoling  him  away  without 
violence." 

This  story,  says  Mary  Grant  (Mrs.  Mary  E.  Brown,  of  San 
Jose,  California),  Frederick  Brown  asked  her  for  again  and 
again,  before  the  men  marched  to  Lawrence.  It  is  thus  clear 
that  the  episode  was  in  itself  precisely  what  might  happen 
in  any  isolated  settlement  which  contained  a  drunken,  worth- 
less settler,  and  that  it  was  known  to  at  least  one  Brown  long 
before  the  sudden  start  for  Lawrence.  Jason  Brown  relates 
it  in  his  letter  in  its  proper  proportions.  Mrs.  B.  F.  Jackson, 
a  resident  of  Osawatomie  at  the  time,  also  testifies  '^  that 
she  never  heard  of  any  of  the  women  of  Osawatomie  or 
Pottawatomie  being  troubled ;  yet  news  of  attacks  on  them, 
had  such  occurred,  must  have  travelled  faster  and  made  a 
more  lasting  impression  upon  the  women  of  the  frontier  than 
anything  else.  In  this  connection  it  is  interesting  to  note 
that  although  Gihon  makes  wholesale  charges  of  rape  against 
the  Border  Ruffians,*'  Mrs.  Charles  Robinson,  than  whom  the 


174  JOHN  BROWN 

Ruffians  have  never  had  a  severer  critic,  states  that  she  knows 
of  only  a  single  case  of  criminal  assault  upon  women  during 
Kansas's  troubled  times.  This  case  she  records  in  her  book 
as  having  occurred  in  August,  1856,  or  months  after  the  Potta- 
watomie massacre."'^  Similar  favorable  testimony  is  given  by 
many  other  women,  who  were  early  settlers,  when  asked  this 
specific  question.  In  all  the  mass  of  material  accumulated  by 
the  Kansas  Historical  Society,  there  is  not  a  proved  instance 
of  Border  Ruffian  misconduct  of  this  kind,  unless  we  except 
that  cited  by  Mrs.  Robinson  and  the  case  of  two  sisters  who 
lived  five  miles  northwest  of  Lawrence,  which  is  reported 
in  the  Tribune  of  June  9,  1856,  on  the  not  always  reliable 
authority  of  James  Redpath.  What  fronti^  settlement  in  a 
time  of  great  excitement  and  unrest  can  show  a  better  record? 
It  must  be  noted,  too,  that  whereas  elsewhere  there  might 
have  been  a  natural  desire  to  suppress  such  facts,  there  were 
plenty  of  correspondents  besides  Redpath  eager  for  such  ter- 
rible happenings  with  which  to  blacken  the  case  against  the 
Border  Ruffians  and  stir  more  Northerners  to  coming  to  the 
rescue  of  Free  Kansas. 

A  fifth  Missouri  outrage  is  directly  brought  home  by  the 
Grant  family  to  Wilkinson,  the  Shermans  and  Doyles.  This 
was  the  case  of  an  old  man  named  Morse,  from  Michigan, 
who  had  sold  lead  for  bullets  to  the  Browns.  As  George  Grant 
narrates  the  story, 

"The  next  morning,  after  the  company  had  started  to  go  to 
Lawrence,  a  number  of  these  proslavery  men,  Wilkinson,  Doyle, 
his  two  sons,  and  William  Sherman,  known  as  '  Dutch  Bill '  —  took 
a  rope  and  were  going  to  hang  him  [Morse]  for  selling  the  lead  to 
the  Free  State  men.  They  frightened  the  old  man  terribly;  and 
finally  told  him  he  must  leave  the  country  before  eleven  o'clock, 
or  they  would  hang  him.  They  then  left  and  went  to  the  Shermans 
and  went  to  drinking.  About  eleven  o'clock  a  portion  of  them,  half 
drunk,  went  back  to  Mr.  Morse's  and  were  going  to  kill  him  with 
an  axe.  His  little  boys  —  one  was  only  nine  years  old  —  set  up  a 
violent  crying,  and  begged  for  their  father's  life.  They  finally  gave 
him  until  sundown  to  leave.  He  left  everything  and  came  at  once 
to  our  house.  He  was  nearly  frightened  to  death.  He  came  to  our 
house  carrying  a  blanket  and  leading  his  little  boy  by  the  hand. 
When  night  came  he  was  so  afraid  that  he  would  not  stay  in  the 
house,  but  went  out  doors  and  slept  on  the  prairie  in  the  grass. 
For  a  few  days  he  lay  about  in  the  brush,  most  of  the  time  getting 


MURDER  ON  THE  POTTAWATOMIE         175 

his  meals  at  our  house.  He  was  then  taken  violently  ill  and  died 
in  a  very  short  time.  Dr.  Gilpatrick  attended  him  during  his  brief 
illness,  and  said  that  his  death  was  directly  caused  by  the  fright 
and  excitement  of  that  terrible  day  when  he  was  driven  from  his 


It  will  be  noticed  that  the  threats  to  Morse  were  made  the 
day  after  the  company  had  gone,  or  on  Friday.  It  is  per- 
fectly plain,  therefore,  that  no  news  of  this  could  have  reached 
John  Brown  in  camp  near  Prairie  City  before  two  o'clock  of 
the  same  day,  when  he  started  back  in  Townsley's  wagon, 
bent  on  the  killings.  Furthermore,  there  was  no  communica- 
tion between  his  party,  as  it  lay  in  the  timber  between  the 
ravines  on  the  day  of  the  killing,  and  the  settlements.  What- 
ever else  may  have  actuated  John  Brown,  it  was  not  the  at- 
tack upon  the  old  man,  Morse,  of  which  he  knew  nothing,  not 
even  if  a  messenger  bearing  stories  of  threatened  outrage  on 
the  Pottawatomie  reached  Brown  on  that  one  morning  in 
camp  when  the  cutlasses  were  being  ground. 

This  question  of  the  alleged  messenger  bringing  fiews  of  the 
threats  against  the  Free  Soil  settlers  is  one  that  has  deeply 
agitated  the  apologists  for  and  critics  of  John  Brown.  The 
identity  of  this  Mercury  has  never  been  established.  He  is 
variously  thought  to  have  been  "Bondi  or  some  one  sent 
by  him"  —  according  to  George  Grant;  or  Weiner,  accord- 
ing to  O.  C.  Brown  and  John  Hutchings.  Townsley  and  Judge 
Hanway  were  sure  that  George  Grant  himself  was  the  mes- 
senger, but  as  George  Grant  denies  this  and  points  out  that 
he  marched  out  with  the  Pottawatomie  Rifles,  this  guess 
must  be  eliminated.  H.  H.  Williams,  on  January  20,  1883, 
wrote  to  R.  J.  Hinton  that  he  was  the  messenger.  Unfortu- 
nately for  this  theory,  his  own  contemporary  letter  to  the 
Tribune,  written  within  two  months  of  the  killings,  proves 
that  he  went  up  toward  Lawrence  not  as  a  messenger  but  as 
first  lieutenant  of  the  Pottawatomie  Rifles,  for  he  relates 
various  incidents  of  the  night  march.  Among  others  who  af- 
firm that  there  was  a  messenger  are  John  Brown,  Jr.,  August 
Bondi,  J.  F.  Legate,  Samuel  Anderson,  Mary  Grant,  J.  G. 
Grant  and  C.  S.  Adair;  but  none  of  them  has  a  clue  to  his  iden- 
tity. Salmon  Brown,  on  the  other  hand,  is  positive  that  there 
was  no  messenger.    So  is  Colonel  James  Blood.    If  there  was 


176  JOHN  BROWN 

a  messenger  who  reached  camp  on  Friday  morning,  he  could 
only  have  had  later  news  by  two  or  three  hours  than  the 
men  of  the  Pottawatomie  Rifles  themselves  brought,  for  they 
marched  from  the  cross-roads  near  Osawatomie  at  six  p.  m., 
and  were  not  much  over  six  hours  in  camp  the  next  day  be- 
fore John  Brown  left  on  his  way  back.    If  the  company  had 
received  tidings  revealing  grave  danger  to  their  women  and 
children  at  home,  it  is  incredible  that  they  would  not  have 
returned  at  once  with  John  Brown,  to  protect  their  families. 
Instead,  they  were  content  to  remain  idly  in  camp  for  two 
days.     If  Colonel  Blood's  narrative  of  meeting  Townsley's 
wagon-load  is  true,  it  is  again  astonishing  that  John  Brown 
never  inquired  of  him  what  had  happened  during  their  twenty- 
four  hours'  absence.     Had  they  done  so.  Blood  could  have 
told  Brown  that  when  he  himself  rode  through  the  Pottawa- 
tomie settlement  that  afternoon,  he  found  the  place  perfectly 
quiet,  the  only  excitement  relating  to  Lawrence;  that  a  few 
men  were  in  the  fields  and  the  women  and  children  were  about 
the  cabins. ^^    But  the  height  of  absurdity  is  the  supposition 
that  eight  able-bodied  men,  heavily  armed,  would  spend  all 
of  one  night  and  the  whole  of  the  next  day,  Saturday,  in  the 
timber  between  two  ravines  near  Pottawatomie  Creek  with- 
out stirring  to  inquire  how  the  Brown  kinsmen  and  kins- 
women, the  Adairs,  the  Days,  Mrs.  John  Brown,  Jr.,  and 
Mrs.  Jason  Brown,  were  faring  during  the  twenty-four  hours 
between  the  return  and  the  murders,  if  these  relatives  were 
known  to  be  in  danger.  If  the  killings  were  due  to  any  sudden 
alarm  that  the  creek  was  to  be  cleared  of  all  Free  State  set- 
tlers, then  the  eight  men  were  craven,  indeed,  to  spend  this 
day  without  scouting  the  neighborhood.    This  supposition  is 
incredible  in  view  of   John   Brown's  known   bravery.    His 
men  hid  because  they  did  not  wish  their  connection  with  the 
murders  known,  and  after  the  crime  they  returned  stealthily 
to  Ottawa  Jones's  without  having  troubled  any  one  with  a 
question  as  to  the  fate  of  the  unguarded  women  and  children 
of  their  comrades  of  the  Pottawatomie  Rifles. 

The  truth  must  be  that  John  Brown  decided  on  the  mur- 
ders because  of  some  general  reason  or  previous  conviction 
that  it  was  necessary  to  remove  the  victims,  and  not  because 
of  any  sudden  news.    As  to  the  messenger,  there  was  none; 


MURDER  ON  THE  POTTAWATOMIE         177 

the  reports  of  threats  to  Free  State  settlers  made  by  the  Sher- 
mans and  Doyles,  which  were  undoubtedly  talked  of  in  the 
camp  and  hastened  John  Brown's  action,  were  brought  in 
not  by  any  one  man  or  any  two  men,  but  by  Bondi,  Weiner, 
Townsley  and  others  of  the  Rifles.  H.  H.  Williams,  in  his 
contemporary  letter,  records  that  he  rode  ten  miles  up  and 
down  the  creek  to  call  his  company  together,  and  that  thirty- 
four  men  had  come  from  various  distances  by  six  p.  M.  to 
the  rendezvous.  As  they  marched  that  night,  they  doubtless 
exchanged  news  and  gossip ;  the  story  about  "  Dutch  Bill "  and 
Mary  Grant  may  have  been  magnified  in  the  telling  and  re- 
telling and  reached  many  ears  for  the  first  time  as  the  little 
column  stumbled  forward  over  the  dark  roads,  while  the  excite- 
ment of  the  hour  probably  led  some  of  the  men  to  think  that 
"Dutch  Bill's"  drunken  threat  had  just  been  uttered. 

To  find  the  reason  and  the  excuse  for  the  cold-blooded 
murder  of  the  Doyles,  Sherman  and  Wilkinson,  we  must, 
therefore,  look  elsewhere.  The  Grants"  and  others  tell  of  a 
meeting  at  "Dutch  Henry's,"  immediately  after  the  depar- 
ture of  the  Rifles,  at  which  the  subsequently  murdered  men 
swore  to  drive  out  all  the  Free  State  settlers  within  a  given 
time  and  reduce  their  houses  to  ashes.  On  the  other  hand, 
Salmon  Brown  declares  positively  that  "it  was  not  the  re- 
port of  any  such  meeting  specifically  that  started  us  off  to 
Pottawatomie."  Nor,  as  we  have  seen,  could  the  news  of  this 
meeting  have  reached  the  camp  near  Prairie  City  before 
John  Brown  started  for  home.  That  the  meeting  occurred, 
the  Grants  are  positive,  but  it,  too,  must  be  discarded  as  a 
motive  for  the  bloody  deed  on  the  Pottawatomie. 

There  remains,  then,  the  question  how  far  the  threats 
against  the  Browns,  heard  in  the  Buford  camp,  and  those 
made  against  the  Free  State  settlers  on  the  Pottawatomie  as 
a  whole,  were  the  controlling  reason  for  the  crime.  It  is  im- 
possible to  avoid  the  belief  that  they  were  a  most  important 
factor  in  moving  John  Brown  to  adopt  Border  Ruffian  tac- 
tics. Salmon  Brown  declares  that  his  father  and  the  others 
were  well  aware  that  the  pro-slavery  men  of  the  Doyle-Sher- 
man type  had  decided  on  extreme  measures  against  them. 
The  stories  of  Bondi,  Weiner,  Benjamin  and  Townsley  all 
had  their  effect  upon  the  Browns.  According  to  Horace  Haskell 


178  JOHN  BROWN 

Day,  son  of  Orson  Day,  when  his  father  went  to  Weiner's 
store,  which  was  just  one  and  a  half  miles  from  the  Doyles' 
cabin,  he  found  a  notice  up  that  all  Free  State  men  must  get 
off  the  creek  within  thirty  days,  or  have  their  throats  cut. 
Weiner  said  to  Mr.  Day:  "We  ought  to  cut  their  throats." 
Mr.  Day  not  consenting,  Weiner  said:  "That  is  the  way  we 
serve  them  in  Texas," — from  which  place  he  had  come." 
Orson  Day  being  a  brother-in-law  of  John  Brown  and  resid- 
ing directly  opposite  John  Brown,  Jr.,  it  would  have  been 
easy  for  him  to  repeat  this  happening  to  his  relatives.  There 
are  witnesses  like  Mr.  M.  V.  B.  Jackson,  who  heard  from 
Weiner,  Bondi  and  Townsley  direct  the  threats  made  against 
them.    Mr.  Jackson  testifies  that  three  days  was  the  time  of 
grace  allowed  to  Weiner,  Benjamin  and  Bondi,  at  the  expira- 
tion of  which  they  were  to  leave  under  pain  of  lynch  law." 
John  B.  Manes  is  another  witness  to  Benjamin's  being  warned. 
"I  know,"  he  has  affirmed,"  "that  there  was  a  reign  of  ter- 
ror, of  which  the  men  who  were  killed  were  the  authors ;  and 
I  am  surprised  that  any  one  should  believe  that  the  killing  of 
these  men  was  without  reasonable  excuse."  He  asks  whether 
the  Free  State  men  were  to  abandon  Kansas,  or  to  fold  their 
arms  and  await  martrydom  when  their  days  of  grace  expired. 
Or  were  they  to  slay  the  would-be  murderers,  to  save  them- 
selves? Here  again  the  question  recurs:  If  John  Brown  knew 
of  the  notice  posted  in  Weiner's  store,  and  was  also  aware 
that  the  pro-slavery  men  had  given  the  Free  Soil  settlers 
but  three  or  five  days  in  which  to  leave,  why  did  he  march 
off  to  Lawrence  leaving  the  women  and  children  defenceless 
and  the  Doyles  and  Shermans  free  to  do  their  worst?   He 
could  not  know  that  he  would  be  free  to  return  within  twenty- 
four  hours,  for  the  fate  of  Lawrence  was  not  learned  until  the 
company  had  marched  twenty-five  miles.    For  all  any  of  the 
men  could  foresee,  they  might  be  going  ofif  on  a  campaign 
that  would  last  for  some  days  —  perhaps  even  weeks. 

It  must  not  be  forgotten,  too,  that  threats  of  slicing  a  man's 
throat,  or  cutting  his  heart  out,  or  driving  him  away,  were  the 
cheapest  and  most  conspicuous  product  of  Border  Ruffian 
activity.  Every  drunken  pro-slavery  man  had  a  quiver-full 
of  them.  The  Squatter  Sovereign  has  them  on  every  page;  the 
blasphemy  and  promises  of  extermination  that  marked  the 


.       MURDER  ON  THE  POTTAWATOMIE         179 

harangues  of  Atchison,  Jones  and  men  of  that  stamp  are  to  be 
found  broadcast  in  the  files  of  the  Tribune  and  the  volumes 
of  Gladstone,  Redpath,  Phillips,  Sara  Robinson  and  the  other 
contemporary  Free  Soil  writers.  The  threats  uttered  on  the 
Pottawatomie  must  have  been  convincing,  indeed,  to  incite 
John  Brown  to  do  what  the  Border  Ruffians  only  talked  of 
doing.  But  this  merely  adds  to  the  mystery  why  the  appeal 
of  Lawrence  should  have  taken  precedence  over  the  safety  of 
Pottawatomie,  as  does  the  affirmation  of  Jason  Brown  that 
a  friendly  pro-slavery  man  had  given  to  the  Rev.  Mr.  Adair 
a  list  of  those  whose  deaths  had  been  agreed  upon  by  his 
pro-slavery  friends,  —  a  story  of  which  Mr.  Adair  has  left  no 
written  record  to  aid  his  kinsman's  reputation.'^ 

What  did  John  Brown  himself  ever  assign  as  the  reason? 
According  to  E.  A.  Coleman,  Brown,  by  means  of  his  surveying 
disguise,  obtained  the  views  of  the  murdered  men  and  found 
that  they  "had  each  one  committed  murder  in  his  heart  and 
according  to  the  Scriptures  they  were  guilty  of  murder  and 
I  felt  justified  in  having  them  killed."  These  words  Cole- 
man places  in  John  Brown's  mouth ; '''  they  are  confirmed  by 
Colonel  Edward  Anderson's  report  of  Brown's  statement  to 
him  that  the  murdered  men  were  planning  to  "wipe  out  the 
Free  Soil  settlers."  "  According  to  Coleman's  story,  therefore. 
Brown,  assuming  the  powers  of  judge  or  military  autocrat, 
adjudged  the  Doyles,  Shermans  and  Wilkinson  deserving  of 
death  because  they  had  had  murder  in  their  hearts.  If  this 
version  be  accepted,  we  must  decide  that  John  Brown  be- 
lieved planning  murder  to  be  worse  than  murder  itself.  We 
have  here  a  most  extraordinary  confusion  of  ethics  and  morals. 
Granting  that  persecution,  and  even  murders,  had  followed 
similar  threats  in  other  portions  of  Kansas,  and  that  the  ter- 
rible happenings  in  the  Territory  were  ever  present  in  John 
Brown's  brain,  one  cannot  but  wonder  that  he  assumed  to 
himself  the  functions  of  chief  executioner  and  deemed  himself 
the  one  to  say  just  when  and  how  the  Sixth  Commandment, 
"  Thou  shalt  not  kill,"  should  be  violated.  He  was  not  content 
merely  to  defend  Free  State  homes  and  patrol  the  roads;  it 
did  not  occur  to  him  to  form  a  vigilance  committee  and  warn 
the  pro-slavery  rascals  to  cease  from  troubling  and  remove 
from  the  neighborhood,  as  did  in  another  year  James  Mont- 


1 80  JOHN  BROWN 

gomery,  in  Linn  County ;  he  was  not  even  content  to  leave  to 
the  Almighty,  to  whom  he  nightly  prayed,  that  vengeance 
which  the  Lord  has  reserved  as  His. 

But  there  are  plenty  of  other  excuses  offered  for  the  crime, 
after  the  various  motives  we  have  examined  are  discarded. 
It  is  pointed  out  that  there  was  no  law  for  Free  Soil  men  in 
the  Territory,  —  only  Catos  and  Lecomptes  on  the  bench  to 
dispense  injustice.  There  was  no  legal  road  to  safety.  It  is 
averred  that  the  Free  Soil  settlers  were  few,  half  starved,  sick 
and  intimidated,  grown  so  spiritless,  the  lack  of  resistance  at 
Lawrence  indicated,  as  to  call  for  some  deed  of  violence  to 
rouse  them  from  their  helpless  inertia.  To  prove  to  the  Border 
Ruffians  that  they  could  no  longer  destroy  and  murder  with 
impunity,  such  a  terrible  warning  as  that  given  at  Pottawato- 
mie was,  therefore,  absolutely  necessary.  Again,  it  is  insisted 
that  John  Brown's  foresight,  his  consecrated  sagacity  and 
devotion  to  the  cause,  made  him  strike  the  blow  in  order  to 
force  men  to  take  sides,  in  order  to  bring  on  the  righteous  and 
necessary  war  which,  to  John  Brown,  was  the  sole  solution 
of  the  issue  in  Kansas.  If  this  conflicts  with  the  widely  held 
theory  that  the  Pottawatomie  killings,  by  ending  the  outrages 
in  the  neighborhood  of  Osawatomie  and  stopping  the  aggres- 
siveness of  the  Border  Ruffians,  was  a  peace  measure,  it  does 
not  deter  many  from  excusing  the  crime  as  an  act  of  war  exe- 
cuted in  war  time.  The  dogs  of  war,  it  is  argued,  had  been  let 
slip  by  Jones  and  Donaldson,  and  as  the  Doyles,  Shermans 
and  Wilkinson  were  spies  and  informers  in  league  with  the 
enemy,  they  richly  merited  their  fate,  which  came  only  just 
in  time  to  save  the  Osawatomie  settlers  from  general  expul- 
sion, if  not  murder.  Then,  too,  it  was  said  to  be  but  a  just' 
act  of  retaliation  for  the  sack  of  Lawrence  and  retribution  for 
the  killing  of  R.  P.  Brown,  Dow,  Barber,  Stewart,  Jones  and 
Collins;  it  is  even  alleged,  by  miscounting  these  six  victims  of 
Border  Ruffian  violence,  that  John  Brown  was  not  eager  to 
kill  Dutch  Henry,  but  chose  his  five  victims  as  a  deliberate 
offset  to  the  five  Free  Soilers  killed  up  to  that  time.  Next,  it 
is  asserted  that  John  Brown  was  merely  carrying  out  the 
orders  of  Free  Soil  leaders  who,  for  motives  of  policy,  did  not 
admit  at  the  time  that  this  killing  was  done  with  their  con- 
nivance and  consent.    Finally,  it  is  averred  by  at  least  one 


MURDER  ON  THE  POTTAWATOMIE         i8i 

biographer  that  John  Brown  was  divinely  inspired,  —  God- 
driven  to  this  dire  act,  because  the'Deity  "makes  His  will 
known  in  advance  to  certain  chosen  men  and  women  who 
perform  it  consciously  or  unconsciously." 

Into  this  field  of  theological  speculation  the  historian  unfor- 
tuh'atelyTannot ■enterT''hS"is  limited  fo^udgiiig'orTecording 
human  motive's;  particularly  as  this  theory  of  divine  inspira- 
tion has  for  centuries  been  the  excuse  for  many  of  the  most 
terrible  crimes  in  history.  /More  capable  of  critical  examina- 
tion is  the  argument  that  there  existed  no  law  and  no  courts 
for  Free  State  men;  but  if  the  absence  of  law  and  just  courts 
sanctions  midnight  assassination,  the  world  is  far  behindhand 
with  its  canonizations.  The  road  to  legal  safety  under  such 
conditions  does  not  lead  by  the  way  of  private  vengeance ;  the 
sole  substitute  is,  as  has  already  been  pointed  out,  lynch  law 
openly  proclaimed  and  openly  administered.  That  the  Potta- 
watomie murders  cannot  be  both  a  peace  and  a  war  measure 
is  obvious.  Unfortunately,  as  will  be  set  forth  when  the  conse- 
quences of  the  crime  are  examined,  the  evidence  shows  that 
it  neither  ended  the  attacks  upon  individuals  nor  stopped 
the  raids  of  large  armed  bodies,  as  has  been  alleged  by  many 
writers,  including  John  Speer.  He  declared,  January  30,  1886, 
that  "the  spirit  of  murder  was  checked,"'^  while  F.  G. 
Adams,  Secretary  of  the  Kansas  Historical  Society,  on  Octo- 
ber 25,  1883,  averred  of  Brown's  kilHngs  that  they  "put  an 
end  to  the  assassination  of  Free  State  men  for  all  time,"  "  — 
as  if,  for  example,  Frederick  Brown  and  David  Garrison  were 
not  shot  down  like  dogs  on  August  30,  1856,  to  say  nothing 
of  the  cold-blooded  murders  after  Pottawatomie  of  Hoppe, 
Cantrall,  Hoyt,  Gay  and  William  Phillips,  and  almost  num- 
berless assaults  upon  persons  and  attacks  upon  private  pro- 
perty. These  might,  it  is  true,  have  continued  had  John 
Brown  struck  no  blow  at  Pottawatomie,  for  the  Border  Ruf- 
fians were  drunk  with  their  success  in  looting  Lawrence;  but 
it  certainly  cannot  be  true  that  they  were  "stopped"  by  the 
assassinations.  But  as  a  war  measure,  John  Brown's  murders 
were  beyond  doubt  successful;  they  were  actually  followed 
by  more  killings  of  Free  State  men  than  had  taken  place 
previously  in  the  Territory;  they  led  to  the  burning  of  Osa- 
watomie  and  other  settlements,  to  attacks  upon  the  Border 


1 82  JOHN  BROWN 

Ruffian  "forts,"  and  to  the  stand-up  fighting  at  Black  Jack 
and  Osawatomie.  If  John  Brown  intended  to  set  men  at  each 
others'  throats,  to  make  every  man  take  sides,  to  bring  mat- 
ters in  Kansas  to  a  head,  he  was  wholly  successful  when  he 
lived  up  to  the  Biblical  doctrine  he  often  quoted,  that  "with- 
out the  shedding  of  blood  there  is  no  remission  of  sin." 

As  to  the  theory  that  John  Brown  was  directed  by  higher 
authorities  in  the  Free  State  ranks,  the  best  evidence  is  a 
recently  discovered  letter  from  Samuel  C.  Pomeroy  to  Re- 
becca B.  Spring,  written  in  Georgetown,  D.  C,  January  i6, 
i860,  just  after  Brown's  execution,  when  the  events  of  1856 
should  have  been  fresh  in  his  memory,  and  here  first  printed: 

"I  am  waiting  here  quietly  to  see  the  progress  of  Mason's  'In- 
vestigating Committee.'  They  have  declined  to  summon  me  —  or 
any  other  man,  who  dare  under  oath,  defend  John  Brown !  !  I  dont 
care  what  are  the  consequences  to  me  politically,  I  will,  upon  the 
first  occasion,  at  the  Capitol  of  this  country  —  defend  that  old  man, 
who  offered  up  himself  gloriously  —  from  the  charge  or  crime  of 
murder  !  No  blow  had  been  struck  by  any  one  of  us  —  up  to  May 
2 1st,  1856.  I  was  in  command  as  Chairman  of  the  'Committee  of 
Public  Safety,'  at  Lawrence,  upon  that  memorable  occasion. 

"I  insisted  —  though  our  Town  was  threatened  with  destruction 

—  and  the  invading  army  was  then  within  12  miles  of  Town !  and 
numbered  over  1200  men  —  well  armed — -That  we  should  give 
the  Government  a  fair  opportunity  to  protect  us,  And  to  this  end  I 
applied  to  those  in  authority.  But  in  the  course  of  that  day  I  found 
that  the  Government  was  yielded  to  the  'border  Rufhans.'  —  I  still 
insisted  (though  against  the  earnest  appeal  of  John  Brown  &  his 
men)  that  the  government  should  commit  the  first  overt  act.  And  I 
told  them,  then  and  there,  that  so  soon  as  I  could  demonstrate  before 
this  Country  that  the  Government  was  powerless  for  protection, 
Then  I  was  with  them,  for  taking  care  of  ourselves  !  So  we  stood  still, 
upon  that  day  and  saw  our  Presses  &  buildings  madly  destroyed.  The 
few  monuments  of  our  civilization,  which  had  been  hastily  erected, 
were  strewn  to  the  winds,  or  consumed  in  the  flames  ! 

"Upon  the  morning  of  the  22nd  of  May  we  called  a  little  meeting 

—  of  sad  but  earnest  men.  Taking  each  other  by  the  hand  we  con- 
venanted,  each  with  the  other,  that  what  there  was  left  to  us  in  this 
life,  and  if  need  he,  all  we  hoped  for  in  the  life  to  come,  should  now 
he  offered  up,  to  the  FREEDOM  of  KANSAS,  and  the  country. 

"A  poorly  written  badly  spelled  note,  passed  round  that  meeting 
that  Doyl,  Wilkinson,  Sherman,  and  others  upon  the  Pottawatomie 
Creek,  had  insulted  the  females  of  one  family,  whose  head  was  then 
present,  and  warned  others  under  pain  of  death  to  leave  the  Terri- 


MURDER  ON  THE  POTTAWATOMIE        183 

tory  by  the  25th  Inst.,  that  very  week!  What  could  I  say?  Or  do? 
I  had  withheld  our  impatient  men,  until  before  us  lay  the  smoking 
ruins  of  the  home  we  loved  the  best,  of  any  spot  upon  earth. 

"You  know  what  was  said  and  'did.'  As  the  Government  af- 
forded no  protection  to  us,  even  when  we  placed  ourselves  under 
its  special  protection,  it  was  then  and  there  Resolved  —  that  every 
man  be  [we  ?]  met  that  invaded  or  threatened  our  lives,  or  homes, 
or  our  families  &  friends,  should  without  delay  of  law  or  courts,  or 
officers,  be  driven  to  Missouri  or  to  death  1 1 

"We  separated  that  morning,  each  to  the  great  work  of  life,  viz. 
to  do  his  duty  —  to  himself  —  to  his  country  &  to  his  God.  John 
Brown  did  not  personly  go  the  whole  distance  with  the  party  that 
went  down  upon  Pottawatomy  creek.  But  he  approved  of  the  course 
decided  upon  for  action,  —  and  SO  DID  I !  And  I  am  not  now  going 
to  repudiate  old  Brown,  or  to  shrink  from  the  responsibility ! 

"He  did  not  commit  the  'murders'  as  they  are  called,  but  we  all 
then  endorsed  them,  —  and  from  that  hour  the  invaders  fled.  That 
one  act  struck  terror  into  the  hearts  of  our  enemies,  and  gave  us  the 
dawning  of  success!  Those  deaths  I  have  no  doubt  saved  a  multi- 
tude of  lives,  and  was  the  cheapest  sacrifice  that  could  be  offered ! " '° 

Unfortunately  for  the  accuracy  of  this  statement,  we  know 
now  that  neither  the  Brown  women  nor  those  of  the  Grant 
family  were  insulted.  The  testimonies  of  fifty- two  witnesses 
of  value  in  connection  with  the  Pottawatomie  murders  have 
been  examined  for  light  on  this  subject.  Pomeroy  is  the  only 
one  to  suggest  that  John  Brown  was  in  Lawrence  on  May  21 
and  22,  with  the  exception  of  Daniel  W.  Wilder,  who  even  adds 
that  he  was  there  with  six  sons  and  his  son-in-law."  It  is  not 
conceivable  that  John  Brown  could  have  been  there  and  have 
fired  no  shot  to  defend  the  tq^wn.  Moreover,  his  surviving 
sons  and  son-in-law  know  nothing  about  it  —  Salmon  Brown 
denying  it  positively.  If  this  is  not  enough,  the  character  of 
John  Brown's  own  statements  should  suffice;  he  would  never 
have  suppressed  the  fact  that  he  saw  Lawrence  destroyed ;  and 
finally,  the  dates  he  gives  for  his  movements  prior  to  the  mur- 
ders, corroborated  by  many  witnesses,  render  it  physically 
impossible  for  him  to  have  been  in  Lawrence  at  the  time  speci- 
fied. 

The  belief  that  John  Brown  was  inspired  by  Robinson, 
Pomeroy  and  Lane  was,  however,  held  by  others.  Congress- 
man Oliver  made  the  general  charge,  in  his  minority  report  to 
the  Howard  Committee  Report,  that  Brown's  victims  "were 


1 84  JOHN  BROWN 

deprived  of  their  lives  ...  in  consequence  of  the  insurrec- 
tionary movements  .  .  .  set  on  foot  by  the  reckless  leaders  of 
the  Tokepa  Convention,"" — an  allegation  not  specific  enough 
to  call  for  refutation  in  this  connection.  In  a  letter  written 
on  February  8,  1875,  Captain  Samuel  Walker  alleges  that 
Brown  complained  to  him  in  the  summer  of  1856  that  Lane 
and  Robinson  were  instigators  of  the  crime,  but  would  not  sus- 
tain him  in  it."  Captain  Walker  also  informed  Frank  B.  San- 
born that  Lane  and  Robinson  £isked  him  to  commit  the  same 
murders,  but  that  he  indignantly  refused  to  do  so.*"  John 
Brown,  Jr.,  once  charged  Robinson  in  great  detail  with  asking 
his  father  in  the  following  September  to  dispose  of  the  leading 
pro-slavery  men  by  killing,  which  request,  he  said,  was  indig- 
nantly spurned.*^  Henry  Thompson  testifies  similarly.*"  But 
Robinson  positively  denied  the  charge,  as  he  most  emphati- 
cally denied  any  complicity  in  the  Pottawatomie  murders. 
One  cannot  have  entire  respect  for  Governor  Robinson's 
character ;  in  this  instance  he  at  one  time  likened  John  Brown 
to  Jesus  Christ,  and  hailed  him  as  a  saviour  of  Kansas,  only 
to  turn  around  a  couple  of  years  later  and  denounce  him,  — 
even  to  speak  of  the  "punishment  due  John  Brown  for  his 
crimes  in  Kansas."**  On  the  other  hand,  John  Brown, Jr.'s 
mind  was,  unfortunately,  not  always  clear.  It  is  important  to 
remember  here  that  John  Brown  at  no  time  during  the  rest 
of  his  life  made  any  positive  statement  which  would  indicate 
that  he  was  acting  under  orders  in  doing  his  bloody  work 
at  Pottawatomie,  —  not  even  when,  in  jail  and  facing  death, 
he  was  asked  by  Judge  Russell,  of  Boston,  for  a  definite 
statement  as  to  his  responsibility  for  the  crime.*^  If  he  cher- 
ished the  feeling  of  anger  against  Robinson  and  Lane  which 
Walker  declared  he  voiced  in  1856,  he  does  not  appear  to  have 
expressed  it  again. 

To  mitigate  the  abruptness  and  cruelty  of  the  tragedy,  it 
is  often  loosely  asserted  that  the  victims  were  duly  tried  by 
a  jury.  John  Sherman  stated  that  he  had  this  from  John 
Brown's  own  lips  shortly  after  the  crime.**  But  no  one  else 
avers  this,  while  the  survivors  of  the  massacre,  Henry  Thomp- 
son and  Salmon  Brown,  deny  it.  No  member  of  the  Brown 
family  has  advanced  this  theory.  The  testimony  of  Townsley 
and  the  families  of  the  murdered  men  as  to  the  speed  of  the 


MURDER  ON  THE  POTTAWATOMIE         185 

executions  and  their  taking  place  consecutively  is  also  con- 
clusive, as  is  the  fact  that  no  juryman  has  ever  been  dis- 
covered.   5 

In  the  light  of  all  the  evidence  now  accumulated,  the  truth 
would  seem  to  be  that  John  Brown  came  to  Kansas  bringing 
arms  and  ammunition,  eager  to  fight,  and  convinced  that 
force  alone  would  save  Kansas.  He  was  under  arms  at  the 
polls  within  three  days  of  his  arrival  in  Kansas,  to  shed  blood 
to  defend  the  voters,  if  need  be,  and  he  was  bitterly  disap- 
pointed that  the  Wakarusa  "war"  ended  without  a  single 
conflict.  Thereafter  he  believed  that  a  collision  was  inevitable 
in  the  spring,  and  Jones  and  Donaldson  proved  him  to  be  cor- 
rect. Fired  with  indignation  at  the  wrongs  he  witnessed  on 
every  hand,  impelled  by  the  Covenanter's  spirit  that  made 
him  so  strange  a  figure  in  the  nineteenth  century,  and  believ- 
ing fully  that  there  should  be  an  eye  for  an  eye  and  a  tooth  for 
a  tooth,  he  killed  his  men  in  the  conscientious  belief  that  he 
was  a  faithful  servant  of  Kansas  and  of  the  Lord.  He  killed 
not  to  kill,  but  to  free;  not  to  make  wives  widows  and  children 
fatherless,  but  to  attack  on  its  own  ground  the  hideous  insti- 
tution of  human  slavery,  against  which  his  whole  life  was  a 
protest.  He  pictured  himself  a  modern  crusader  as  much  em- 
powered to  remove  the  unbeliever  as  any  armored  searcher 
after  the  Grail.  It  was  to  his  mind  a  righteous  and  necessary 
act ;  if  he  concealed  his  part  in  it  and  always  took  refuge  in 
the  half-truth  that  his  own  hands  were  not  stained,  that 
was  as  near  to  a  compromise  for  the  sake  of  policy  as  this 
rigid ,  self-denying  Roundhead  ever  came.  Naturally  a  tender- 
hearted man,  he  directed  a  particularly  shocking  crime  with- 
out remorse,  because  the  men  killed  typified  to  him  the  slave- 
drivers  who  counted  their  victims  by  the  hundreds.  It  was  to 
him  a  necessary  carrying  into  Africa  of  the  war  in  which  he 
firmly  desired  himself  engaged./And  always  it  must  not  be 
forgotten  that  his  motives  were  wholly  unselfish,  and  that  his 
aims  were  none  other  than  the  freeing  of  a  race.  With  his 
ardent,  masterful  temperament,  he  needed  no  counsel  from  a 
Lane  or  a  Robinson  to  make  him  ready  to  strike  a  blow,  or  to 
tell  him  that  the  time  for  it  had  come.  The  smoke  of  burning 
Lawrence  was  more  than  sufficient. 

If  this  interpretation  of  the  man  and  his  motives  lifts  him 


i86  JOHN  BROWN 

far  above  the  scale  of  that  Border  Ruffian  who  boasted  that  he 
would  have  the  scalp  of  an  Abolitionist  within  two  hours  and 
actually  killed  and  scalped  the  very  first  one  he  met,  it  can- 
not be  denied  that  the  Border  Ruffians  who  sacked  Lawrence 
believed  as  thoroughly  in  the  justice  of  their  cause,  and  their 
right  to  establish  in  Kansas  what  was  to  them  a  sacred  institu- 
tion, as  John  Brown  did  in  his.  Their  leaders  had  told  them  of 
an  agreement  in  Congress  that  Kansas  should  be  a  slave  State 
and  Nebraska  free.^*  Hence  their  belief  that  the  North  had 
broken  this  compact  rendered  them  particularly  bitter  against 
the  Free  Soilers.  It  was  to  them  also  a  holy  war  in  which  they 
were  engaged,  —  even  with  its  admixture  of  whiskey  and  law- 
lessness, characteristics  of  the  Southern  "poor  white "  civiliza- 
tion of  the  period.  If  one  grants  to  John  Brown  absolution 
for  the  Pottawatomie  murders  because  he  struck  in  what  was 
to  him  a  moral  crusade,  one  must  come  near  granting  it  to 
the  Border  Ruffian  Hamilton,  who  made  eleven  men,  most  of 
whom  he  had  never  seen  before,  stand  up  in  line  on  May 
19,  1858,  that  he  might  shoot  them  down.*'  In  his  behalf  it 
could  much  more  truthfully  be  said  that  there  was  war  in  Linn 
County  in  1858  than  that  there  was  war  about  Osawatomie  in 
1856.  Hamilton  doubtless  intended  also  to  send  terror  to  the 
hearts  of  his  enemies,  to  drive  them  from  the  Territory.  That 
the  five  men  he  killed  were  of  blameless  reputation,  while 
John  Brown's  five  victims  were  weak  or  bad  characters,  does 
not  alter  the  case  from  the  moral  or  the  legal  point  of  view. 
Murder  is  murder,  whatever  the  character  of  the  victims;  it 
remains,  in  its  essence,  unchanged  in  these  two  cases,  even 
though  the  leader  of  one  set  of  self-appointed  executioners 
has  been  excused  by  his  friends,  and  the  other  universally 
execrated.  Might  not  Hamilton,  too,  have  been  portrayed 
as  the  tool  of  a  vengeful  Deity?  Might  he  not,  to  use  James 
Freeman  Clarke's  characterization  of  John  Brown,  have 
maintained  that  he  believed  in  "fighting  fire  with  fire,"  that 
"there  was  no  malice  or  desire  for  vengeance  in  his  constitu- 
tion"? 88  Certainly,  Hamilton's  catholic  choice  of  victims  — 
he  seized  them  in  the  fields  and  on  the  roads  as  he  met  them 
—  would  prove  that  he  also  killed  without  personal  enmity. 
It  may  be  that  Hamilton  thought  that  by  so  blood-curdling 
an  assassination  he  could  stop  the  hostile  operations  of  armed 


MURDER  ON  THE  POTTAWATOMIE         187 

Free  Soil  bands  led  by  Montgomery,  Jennison  —  admittedly  a 
bad  character  —  and  others.  If  this  theory  is  wrong,  Hamil- 
ton's Marais  des  Cygnes  massacre  ought  at  least  to  have 
estopped  James  Freeman  Clarke  and  other  defenders  of  Brown 
from  saying  that  after  Brown's  victims  were  killed,  "the  coun- 
try had  peace."  It  should  have  prevented  any  likening  of 
John  Brown  to  Grant,  Sherman  and  Sheridan,  whose  orders 
killed  thousands  in  "  another  war , ' '  —  as  if  war  could  exist  save 
under  those  rules  of  war  which  as  peremptorily  forbid  mid- 
night assassination  as  they  do  the  violation  of  women  and  the 
poisoning  of  wells.  Finally,  a  real  war-commander  always 
assumes  the  responsibility  for  his  acts,  while  John  Brown  was 
ever  disingenuous  about  the  Pottawatomie  massacres. 

From  the  point  of  view  of  ethics,  John  Brown's  crime  onS 
the  Pottawatomie  cannot  be  successfully  palliated  or  excused.  ^ 
It  must  ever  remain  a  complete  indictment  of  his  judgment 
and  wisdom ;  a  dark  blot  upon  his  memory ;  a  proof  that,  how- 
ever self-controlled,  he  had  neither  true  respect  for  the  laws 
nor  for  human  life,  nor  a  knowledge  that  two  wrongs  never 
make  a  right.  Call  him  a  Cromwellian  trooper  with  the  Old 
Testament  view  of  the  way  of  treating  one's  enemies,  as  did 
James  Freeman  Clarke,  if  you  please;  it  is  nevertheless  true 
that  Brown  lived  in  the  nineteenth  century  and  was  properly 
called  upon  to  conform  to  its  standard  of  morals  and  right 
living.  What  would  become  of  society  if  it  permitted  all 
whose  spirits  would  hark  back  to  the  modes  of  life  of  other 
times  and  other  morals  to  have  their  way?  Describing  Brown 
as  a  misplaced  Crusader  cannot,  moreover,  conceal  the  regret- 
table fact  that  the  Pottawatomie  murders  deprived  the  Free 
Soil  cause  of  an  enormous  moral  advantage.  Up  to  May,  1856, 
its  adherents  had  suffered,  bled  and  died,  without  any  blood- 
guilt  attaching  to  them.  This  gave  them,  as  unoffending  viqf 
tims  of  pro-slavery  fury,  an  unsurpassed  standing  in  the  court 
of  public  opinion.  Their  hands  were  cleani^hey  had  been 
attending  to  their  own  affairs  and  were  citing  out  against 
wrong  and  injustice  by  the  time-honored  methods  of  protest, 
—  through  the  press,  the  ballot-box,  the  right  of  assembly,  the 
setting  up  a  government  of  their  own  to  be  passed  upon  by 
the  highest  tribunals  of  the  land,  that  is,  the  courts  and  the 
Congress  of  the  United  States.    The  Free  State  leaders  had 


1 88  JOHN  BROWN 

hitherto  counselled  peaceful  submission  to  wrong  as  the  surest 
way  to  the  sympathies  of  the  nation,  and  to  that  eventual 
justice  which  no  believer  in  American  institutions  could 
despair  of,  even  in  1856,  when  the  whole  weight  of  the  Federal 
Government  and  its  troops  had  been  thrown  against  the  Free 
Soilers.  For  the  court  of  last  resort,  the  conscience  of  the 
American  people,  had  not  yet  been  heard  from  as  it  was  but  a 
few  years  later. /Of  a  sudden,  all  this  great  moral  superiority 
was  flung  away;  *'  the  sack  of  Lawrence,  the  Pottawatomie 
murders,  brought  about  a  complete  change  of  policy.  /  The 
militant  Abolitionists  of  the  John  Brown,  Horace  Greeley, 
Henry  Ward  Beecher  type  reaped  their  harvest.  The  Sharp's 
rifles,  "  Beecher's  Bibles,"  now  came  into  play.  But  the  South 
at  last  had  its  tu-quoque.  "You  sacked  Lawrence,"  said  the 
North.  "  But  you  resorted  to  the  vilest  of  midnight  assassina- 
tions of  unarmed  men  and  boys,"  replied  the  South/ Sumner 
could  not  have  delivered  unaltered  his  wonderful  philippic, 
the  "Crime  AgainsJ  Kansas,"  after  the  crimes  against  Mis- 
souri had  begun.  /There  was  now  blood  upon  both  sides. 

For  John  Brown  no  pleas  can  be  made  that  will  enable  him 
to  escape  coming  before  the  bar  of  historical  judgment.  There 
his  wealth  of  self-sacrifice,  and  the  nobility  of  his  aims,  do  noi 
avail  to  prevent  a  complete  condemnation  of  his  bloody  crim( 
at  Pottawatomie,  or  a  just  penalty  for  his  taking  human  lif( 
without  warrant  or  authority.  If  he  deserves  to  live  in  hi& 
tory,  it  is  not  because  of  his  cruel,  gruesome,  reprehensible 
acts  on  the  Pottawatomie,  but  despite  them.*"  / 


CHAPTER  VI 
CLOSE  QUARTERS  AT  BLACK  JACK 


WAR!         WAR! 

Eight  Pro-Slavery  men  murdered  by  the  AboUtionists 
in  Franklin  County,  K.  T. 

LET  SLIP   THE  DOGS  OF  WAR! 

We  learn  from  a  despatch  just  received  by  Col.  A.  G. 
Boone,  dated  at  Paola,  K.  T.,  May  26,  1856,  and 
signed  by  Gens.  Heiskell  and  Barbee,  that  the  reported 
murder  of  eight  pro-slavery  men  in  Franklin  County, 
K.  T.,  is  but  too  true. 

It  was  thus  that  the  Westport,  Missouri,  Border  Times  gave 
to  its  readers,  on  May  27,  1856,  the  news  that  was  intended 
to  strike  terror  to  their  hearts.  The  only  reason  for  the  crime 
the  despatch  assigned  was  that  "the  abolitionists  (the  court 
being  in  session)  were  afraid  that  these  men  [their  victims] 
would  be  called  upon  to  give  evidence  against  them,  as  many 
of  them  were  charged  with  treason."  The  Border  Times  sup- 
plemented this  news  with  an  appeal  to  the  South  for  men 
and  money,  because  civil  war  with  all  its  horrors  now  reigned 
in  Kansas.  The  Jefferson,  Missouri,  Inquirer  of  the  29th,  and 
the  Lexington,  Missouri,  Express  of  the  26th  reprinted  the 
Western  Despatch's  account  of  the  crime  and  also  its  edito- 
rial assertion  that  "for  every  Southern  man  thus  butchered 
a  decade  [dozen?]  of  these  poltroons  should  bite  the  dust." 
Henry  Clay  Pate,  correspondent  of  the  St.  Louis  Missouri 
Republican,  wrote  on  May  30  that  no  personal  grudges  ex- 
isted between  the  murdered  and  the  murderers,  "in  fact  no 
cause  whatever  can  be  or  is  attempted  to  be  assigned  for 
their  savage  barbarity  but  that  the  deceased  were  proslav- 
ery  in  their  sentiments."  Thirteen  persons  supposed  to  be  con- 
nected with  the  crime  were  under  arrest,  and  if  ever  lynch  laws 
were  justifiable,  in  Pate's  opinion  this  was  the  time.  The  pro- 


190  JOHN  BROWN 

slavery  Kansas  Weekly  Herald  of  Leavenworth,  in  its  issue 
of  June  7,  reprinted  a  column  and  a  half  of  news  from  the 
Lecompton  Union,  in  the  course  of  which  that  newspaper  sar- 
castically said: 

"These  are  the  'Free  State  men'  who  have  been  so  deeply  out- 
raged by  the  law  and  order  party,  but  have,  like  martyrs,  passed 
through  the  fire,  without  the  stain  of  blood  upon  their  skirts  or  the 
mark  of  pillage  upon  their  consciences.  This  is  the  party  so  pure 
and  untarnished  with  dishonor  that  their  very  natures  revolt  at 
and  recoil  from  the  countenancing  of  even  a  minor  disgrace,  much 
less  the  foul  assassination  of  Sheriff  Jones.  This  is  the  party  that 
held  an  indignation  meeting  in  Lawrence,  headed  by  Charles  Rob- 
inson and  A.  H.  Reeder,  passed  resolutions  and  even  offered  a  re- 
ward for  the  apprehension  of  him  who  shot  Jones.  .  .  .  These  are 
the  men  who  are  cursing  the  Marshal  and  posse  for  blowing  up  this 
'  Northern  Army's '  fortress  and  destroying  their  mouthpieces  and 
are  denominating  them  plunderers  and  committers  of  arson,  and 
this  news  is  taken  up  by  their  agents  in  the  North,  heralded  forth 
from  one  extreme  to  the  other  as  truth,  asking  protection  for  these 
innocent  free  state  creatures." 

Another  correspondent  of  the  Missouri  Republican,  one 
J.  Bernard,  reporting  from  Westport  the  arrival  there  of  Mrs. 
Doyle,  added  that  "a  more  cruel  murder  has  scarcely  been 
committed;"  it  was  a  "foul  and  inhuman  act."  The  fighting 
Squatter  Sovereign,  of  Atchison,  was  distinctly  sobered  by  the 
news  from  Kansas,  but  still  ready  to  fight,  for  on  June  lo  it 
thus  freed  its  ever  surcharged  mind : 

"Midnight  murders,  assassinations,  burglaries,  and  arson  seem 
now  to  be  the  watchwords  of  the  so-called  Free  State  party.  Whilst 
those  rebellious  subjects  confined  themselves  to  the  resistance  of 
the  law,  in  their  attempts  to  make  arrests,  and  execute  processes  in 
their  hands,  the  pro-slavery  party  in  the  territory  was  determined 
to  stand  by  the  law,  and  aid  the  officers  in  executing  process  and 
the  courts  in  administering  justice.  And  that  we  have  no  doubt 
is  still  the  determination  of  every  pro-slavery  man,  but  there  is  a 
time  for  all  things.  Self-protection  —  defence  of  one's  life,  family 
and  property,  are  rights  guaranteed  to  all  law-abiding  citizens; 
and  the  manner  and  mode  of  keeping  off  murderers,  assassins,  &c., 
are  not  confined  to  any  very  strict  rules  of  law.  .  .  .  Hundreds  of 
the  Free  State  men,  who  have  committed  no  overt  acts,  but  have 
only  given  countenance  to  those  reckless  murderers,  assassins  and 
thieves,  will  of  necessity  share  the  same  fate  of  their  brethren.  If 
civil  war  is  to  be  the  result  in  such  a  conflict,  there  cannot  be,  and 
will  not  be,  any  neutrals  recognized." 


CLOSE  QUARTERS  AT  BLACK  JACK         191 

The  St.  Louis  Morning  Herald  on  June  13  informed  its 
readers,  on  the  authority  of  a  Lecompton  correspondent, 
that:  "The  AboUtionists  are  continuing  their  assassinations 
and  plunder.  Robinson  has  given  orders  for  a  guerrilla  war. 
Besides  the  murders  at  Ossawatomie,  by  the  noted  Brown, 
others  have  been  attempted  in  the  neighborhood."  Six  days 
later,  hearing  from  Lawrence  that  the  Pottawatomie  massacre 
was  done  for  the  deliberate  purpose  of  impressing  the  Border 
Ruffians,  it  said:  " Here  is  the  avowal  of  a  man  who  ought  to 
know ;  he  tells  you  that  midnight  assassination,  which  revives 
in  all  their  atrocity  the  most  fiendish  barbarities  of  the  darkest 
ages  and  which,  we  repeat,  is  without  parallel  in  Christendom 
since  the  Revolution  in  France,  is  deliberately  planned  to  strike 
terror  into  the  hearts  of  political  opponents!  Whether  such 
will  be  the  effect  of  the  lesson  remains  to  be  seen."  Editorially, 
the  Morning  Herald  had  already  expressed  the  hope  that  the 
pro-slavery  party  would  not  retaliate  in  kind  and  would  re- 
frain from  lynching  the  assassins,  while  its  rival,  the  Missouri 
Republican,  was  quick  to  see  the  advantage  which  lay  in 
declaring  that  this  bloody  outcome  of  civil  war  was  the  "legit- 
imate result  of  the  counsels  of  such  preachers  as  Beecher." 
Curiously  enough,  as  James  Ford  Rhodes  points  out,'  the 
Democratic  press  of  the  country  as  a  whole,  except  that  on 
the  border,  made  comparatively  little  use  of  the  killings.  One 
Northern  newspaper,  the  Burlington,  Iowa,  Gazette,  denounced 
them  on  June  25 ;  the  Liberator,  whose  editor,  William  Lloyd 
Garrison,  strongly  protested  against  the  Sharp's  rifle  teachings 
of  Beecher  and  the  militant  Abolitionists, ^  wholly  failed  to 
record  Brown's  crime.  Senator  Toombs,  of  Georgia,  and  Con- 
gressman Oliver  cited  the  murders  in  the  course  of  speeches 
in  the  Senate  and  House.  But  the  Republican  newspapers, 
intentionally  or  unintentionally,  deceived  their  readers  by 
garbled  reports  of  the  crime.  It  was  generally  represented 
that  five  of  a  pro-slavery  gang,  caught  hanging  a  Free  State 
settler,  were  shot  by  the  latter's  friends  as  they  came  to  his 
rescue,  and  the  Republican  press  took  extremely  good  care 
not  to  give  much  space  to  the  affair.  As  Mr.  Rhodes  explains, 
the  hitherto  excellent  character  of  the  Free  State  settlers 
rendered  it  impossible  for  the  East  to  credit  the  story,  or  for 
the  Democrats  to  bring  it  home  to  them  as  they  should  have. 


192  JOHN  BROWN 

Only  in  Missouri  did  the  Southern  press  make  of  it  all  that  was 
possible.  The  address  of  the  Law  and  Order  Party  to  their 
friends  of  the  South,  signed  by  Atchison,  B.  F.  Stringfellow, 
Major  Buford  and  others  on  June  21,^  naturally  used  the 
massacre  to  the  utmost,  declaring,  among  other  things,  that 
Wilkinson  had  been  "flayed  alive,"  and  that  besides  the  "six 
victims,"  the  bodies  of  four  others  were  still  missing. 

Governor  Shannon  promptly  reported  the  murders  to  Presi- 
dent Pierce.   From  Lecompton,  May  31,  he  wrote:  * 

"...  Comment  is  unnecessary.  The  respectability  of  the  par- 
ties and  the  cruelties  attending  the  murders  have  produced  an 
extraordinary  state  of  excitement  in  that  portion  of  the  Territory, 
which  has  heretofore  remained  comparatively  quiet.  ...  I  hope 
the  offenders  may  be  brought  to  Justice ;  if  so,  it  may  allay  to  a 
great  extent  the  excitement,  otherwise  I  fear  the  consequences." 

Governor  Shannon's  anxiety  was  justified.  On  the  27th  of 
May  the  news  of  the  Pottawatomie  crimes  was  posted  all  over 
Leavenworth.  The  leading  Free  State  business  men  were 
arrested,  and,  according  to  an  eye-witness,  William  H.  Coffin, 
only  the  urgent  solicitation  of  such  men  as  General  Richardson 
and  other  leading  pro-slavery  officials  prevented  their  meeting 
with  violence.^  Other  influential  Free  State  men  were  ban- 
ished. Four  days  later,  the  31st,  when  Governor  Shannon 
was  writing  his  report,  a  meeting  of  the  Law  and  Order  Party 
was  held  in  Leavenworth  to  protest  against  the  Pottawatomie 
murders.  At  this  gathering,  so  the  Tribune  reported,*  "leading 
pro-slavery  citizens  —  some  of  them  heretofore  moderate 
men — were  the  officers  and  speechmakers.  Violent  speeches 
were  made,  and  resolutions  of  the  same  character  were  passed, 
condemning  all  Free  State  men  without  distinction,  and 
appointing  a  Vigilance  Committee  of  fifty  to  watch  their 
movements,  and  to  warn  offenders  from  the  Territory."  ' 

At  Fort  Scott,  the  Southeastern  rendezvous  of  Border  Ruf- 
fians, the  news  that  Lawrence  was  burned  was  received  with 
a  general  feeling  of  joy,  but  it  was  followed  by  the  rumor  that 
at  Osawatomie  five,  and  some  said  nine,  pro-slavery  men  had 
been  called  up  in  the  night  and,  as  soon  as  they  made  their 
appearance,  had  been  shot  by  the  Abolitionists.  This  caused 
a  general  feeling  of  alarm  and  indignation,  and  the  young  men 
of  Fort  Scott,  on  their  own  responsibility,  organized  them- 


CLOSE  QUARTERS  AT  BLACK  JACK        193 

selves  into  a  "watch  guard "  to  protect  the  Fort  from  invasion 
by  the  Abolitionists,  for,  to  add  to  the  excitement,  it  had  been 
currently  reported  that  Fort  Scott  was  to  be  burned  as  a 
retaliation  for  the  destruction  of  Lawrence.*  Some  of  the  Mis- 
sourians  at  once  took  the  offensive.  Although  Mrs.  Robinson 
was  of  the  opinion  that  "the  news  of  the  horrible  massacre 
fell  upon  the  ears  of  the  Border  Ruffians  like  a  thunderbolt 
out  of  a  clear  sky,  and  carried  fear  and  trembling  into  many 
Missouri  homes,"  and  that  "his  [Brown's]  name  became  one 
of  terror,  like  that  of  hobgoblins  to  silly  children,  or  that  of 
Lafitte  upon  the  sea,"  '  Captain  Henry  Clay  Pate,  the  fighting 
correspondent  of  the  Missouri  Republican,  went  at  once  with 
his  company  to  Paola,  eight  miles  from  Osawatomie,  to  assist 
the  United  States  Marshal  in  arresting  the  Pottawatomie 
Creek  murderers.  On  June  2,  General  J.  W.  Whitfield,  the  del- 
egate to  Congress,  wrote  from  Westport  to  the  editor  of  the 
Border  Times  that  news  had  reached  there  of  disaster  to  Cap- 
tain Pate's  company.   This  was  his  statement  of  the  situation : 

There  can  scarcely  be  a  doubt  that  this  small  force  has  been 
annihilated.  This  town,  where  the  congressional  committee  are 
now  taking  evidence,  has  been  thronged  during  the  day  with  men 
with  their  families,  fleeing  from  the  territory  to  avoid  assassination 
and  butchery.  I  am  constantly  in  receipt  of  letters  and  appeals  for 
protection.  The  cowardly  and  fiendish  manner  in  which  the  assas- 
sinations have  been  perpetrated,  particularly  those  on  Pottawato- 
mie creek  (which  I  am  informed  by  Judge  Cato  just  in  from  that 
place  have  not  been  exaggerated  in  the  public  accounts,  indeed  do 
not  equal  the  reality,)  leaves  but  little  hope  that  these  abolition 
monsters  can  be  actuated  by  any  other  consideration  than  that  of 
fear.  I  have,  therefore,  determined  to  start  in  an  hour  or  two,  with 
as  many  men  as  can  be  raised,  in  the  hope,  if  not  too  late,  of  reliev- 
ing the  little  band,  under  Capt.  Pate,  and  afford  what  protection  I 
can  to  the  peaceful  citizens  of  the  territory,  and  restore  in  it  order 
and  peace.  ... 

Jno.  W.  Whitfield.'"    ; 

Two  of  John  Brown's  sons  fell  readily  into  the  hands  of  the 
Missourians,  —  John  Brown,  Jr.,  and  Jason  Brown.  They  had 
spent  but  one  night  in  the  Adair  cabin,  —  the  one  in  which,  as 
we  have  seen,  John  Brown,  Jr.,  became  insane.  Leaving  their 
wives  the  next  morning,  in  fear  lest  their  presence  attract  the 
Border  Ruffians,  they  set  off,  Jason  with  the  idea  of  surren- 


194  JOHN  BROWN 

dering  to  the  United  States  troops  and  demanding  protection. 
Jason  shortly  thereafter  encountered  a  body  of  Border  Ruf- 
fians headed  by  the  notorious  "Rev."  Martin  White.  He  has 
thus  told  the  story  of  the  encounter:  " 

"  I  did  not  recognize  in  the  leader  the  man  who  had  led  the  squad 
of  '  steer  hunters '  to  our  camp  when  we  first  reached  the  Territory. 
But  he  was  that  same  Martin  White.   I  walked  straight  up  to  him. 
'Can  you  tell  me  the  way  to  Taway  Jones's?'   'You  are  one  of  the 
very  men  we  are  looking  for!  Your  name  is  Brown.    I  knew  your 
father.    I  knew  your  brother!'  shouted  White.    Up  came  all  the 
guns  clicking.    'Down  with  him!'  the  squad  yelled.    'You  are  our 
prisoner,'  said  White.    'Got  any  arms?'    'A  revolver.'    'Hand  it 
out.'   'Now  go  ahead  of  the  horses.'   I  was  weak  with  ague,  excite- 
ment, fatigue.    But  I  was  terribly  afraid  of  torture.    I  knew  what 
these  men  had  done  to  others,  and  all  my  habitual  stammering  left 
me.    'My  name  is  Jason  Brown,'  I  said,  standing  facing  them.  'I 
am  a  Free  State  man,  and  what  you  call  an  Abolitionist.   I  have 
never  knowingly  injured  a  human  being.  Now  if  you  want  my  blood 
for  that,  there  is  a  mark  for  you.'   And  I  pulled  open  the  bosom  of 
my  shirt.    I  expected  to  be  shot  to  pieces.   And  they  took  that  for 
courage!  Three-fourths  of  them  laid  their  guns  across  their  saddles 
and  began  to  talk  friendly.   Martin  White  said:  'We  won't  kill  you 
now.  But  you  are  our  prisoner  and  we  hold  every  man  a  scoundrel 
till  he  is  pro-\?en  honest.'    One  man,  a  villainous  face,  kept  his  gun 
up.   I  dared  not  turn  my  back,  until  I  had  backed  thirty  rods  or  so, 
I  wanted  to  be  killed  quickly,  not  to  be  tortured.  They  drove  me 
four  miles  at  a  fast  walk.  Then  we  came  to  a  cabin  and  store.  I  was 
having  chills  every  day,  then,  and  at  that  moment  my  chill  came 
on.  They  gave  me  a  sack  of  coffee  for  a  pillow.  The  man  who  had 
kept  his  gun  levelled  came  and  looked  at  me,  with  his  bowie  knife 
raised.   '  Do  you  see  anything  bad  about  me?'  I  asked.   '  I  don't  see 
anything  good  about  ye!'  he  snarled,  but  went  away.  As  the  fever 
came  on  they  put  me  on  a  horse,  tied  my  feet  beneath  him  and  my 
arms  behind  me  and  took  me,  with  a  guard  of  twenty  men,  to  Paoia, 
where  were  about  three  hundred  armed  pro-slavery  men.   One  flour- 
ished a  coil  of  new  hemp  rope  over  his  head  as  we  rode  up.  '  Swing 
him  up!   Swing  him  up!'  he  shouted.   They  hustled  me  over  to  a 
tree  and  that  man  flung  his  rope  end  over  a  limb  and  stood  ready. 
I  sat  down  on  the  grass  by  the  tree.  I  did  n't  suppose  I  had  a  friend 
in  that  crowd.   Then  came  what  changed  my  whole  mind  and  life 
as  to  my  feeling  toward  slave-holders.    I  can't  see  a  Southerner  or 
a  Southern  soldier,  now,  whatever  he  thinks  of  me,  without  wanting 
to  grasp  his  two  hands. 

"As  I  sat  there  waiting  under  the  dangling  rope,  I  saw  three  men 
aside  from  the  yelling  crowd,  differently  dressed  from  the  rest.  One 
of  them  came  quietly,  tapped  me  on  the  shoulder  and  showed  me  a 


CLOSE  QUARTERS  AT  BLACK  JACK         195 

scrap  of  paper  in  the  palm  of  his  hand.  '  Whose  writing  is  that? '  asked 
he.  'My  father's.'  'Is  old  John  Brown  your  father?'  'Yes.'  Never 
another  word  did  he  say,  but  went  around  and  spoke  to  the  crowd, 
who  made  so  much  noise  that  I  could  not  hear  what  he  said.  Then 
he  came  back,  (he  was  Judge  Jacobs,  of  Lexington,  Kentucky,  and 
one  of  his  companions  was  Judge  Cato,)  and  quietly  said  to  me: 
'  Come  with  me  to  my  house  and  I  will  treat  you  like  my  own  son, 
but  we  must  hold  you  prisoner.'  Mrs.  Doyle  was  also  staying  in  that 
house  and  we  all  sat  at  the  same  table  for  meals.  She  said  nothing. 
There  I  was,  one  lone  coward,  and  about  forty  proslavery  men  in 
the  house  that  night.  .  .  .  On  the  third  night  John  was  brought  in. 
We  lay  together  and  I  slept  soundly  on  the  front  side  of  the  bed. 
In  the  night  there  was  a  sudden  commotion  and  a  crowd  of  men 
rushed  in.  One  brandished  a  bowie  knife  over  me  as  if  to  drive  it 
into  my  right  side.  I  slept  on.  John  bared  my  heart,  and,  pointing 
to  it,  said,  'Strike  there.'  They  took  me  away,  two  men  holding  my 
tied  arms,  in  the  middle  of  the  night,  leaving  John,  up  to  the  Shaw- 
nee Mission.  But  they  were  afraid  to  keep  me  there  and  the  same 
night  brought  me  back  again.  .  .  ." 

Jason  did  not  see  John  again  for  about  two  weeks.  Then  the 
latter  was  becoming  sane.  But  presently  a  squad  arrived  to 
escort  Jason  and  John  to  Osawatomie. 

"Capt.  Wood  himself  came  into  the  room  where  we  two  were 
sleeping,  seized  John  by  the  collar  with,  —  'Come  out  here,  sir,' 
and  jerked  him  out  of  bed.  Wood  himself  bound  John's  wrists  be- 
hind him,  and  then  his  upper  arms,  using  small,  hard  hemp  rope, 
and  he  set  his  teeth  and  pulled  with  all  his  force,  tightening  the 
turns.  Later  another  rope  some  forty  feet  long  was  passed  between 
these  two,  to  drive  him  by.  Outside  the  leader  of  the  squad  which 
was  to  take  us  to  Osawatomie  (I  think  this  was  Pate)  was  calling 
orders  to  his  men.  'Oyez,  Oyez,  Oyez,'  he  shouted.  'Form  a  line 
of  battle.' 

"They  drove  John  afoot  all  the  way  from  Paola  to  Osawatomie. 
Me,  on  the  other  hand,  they  carried  in  a  wagon.  When  I  saw  John 
in  the  new  camp,  (they  had  to  change  camp  as  the  horses  grazed 
the  grass  off,)  John  was  a  maniac  and  in  a  terrible  condition.  They 
had  never  loosened  the  cords  around  his  upper  arms  and  the  flesh 
was  swollen  so  that  the  cords  were  covered.  They  had  driven  him 
through  the  water  of  Bull  Creek  and  the  yellow  flints  at  the  bottom 
had  cut  through  his  boots  and  terribly  lacerated  his  feet.  I  found 
him  chained  by  each  ankle,  with  an  ox-cart  chain,  to  the  center 
pole  of  the  guard  tent.  John,  who  then  fancied  himself  commander 
of  the  camp,  was  shrieking  military  orders,  jumping  up  and  down 
and  casting  himself  about.  Capt.  Wood  said  to  me:  'Keep  that 
man  still.'  '  I  can't  keep  an  insane  man  still,'  said  I.  '  He  is  no  more 
insane  than  you  are.  If  you  don't  keep  him  still,  we'll  do  it  for  you.' 


196  JOHN  BROWN 

I  tried  my  best,  but  John  had  not  a  glimmer  of  reason  and  could  not 
understand  anything.    He  went  on  yelling.    Three  troopers  came 
in.    One  struck  him  a  terrible  blow  on  the  jaw  with  his  fist,  throw- 
ing him  on  his  side.  A  second  knelt  on  him  and  pounded  him  with 
his  fist.   The  third  stood  off  and  kicked  him  with  all  his  force  in 
the  back  of  the  neck.  'Don't  kill  a  crazy  man!'  cried  I.  'No  more 
crazy  than  you  are,  but  we '11  fetch  it  out  of  him.'   After  that  John 
lay  unconscious  for  three  or  four  hours.  We  camped  about  one 
and  a  half  miles  southeast  of  the  Adairs.   There  we  stayed  about 
two  weeks.   Then  we  were  ordered  to  move  again.    They  drove  us 
on  foot,  chained  two  and  two.    I  was  chained  to  George  Partridge. 
In  a  gang  they  drove  us  up  right  up  in  front  of  Adair's  house.  Aunt 
Florilla  came  out  and  talked  to  Lieut.  Iverson,  (he  was  a  cruel  man!) 
'What  does  this  mean  in  this  Land  of  the  Free?   What  does  this 
mean  that  you  drive  these  men  like  cattle  and  slaves ! '  and  she  went 
on,  giving  him  a  terrible  cutting.  Iverson  made  no  reply.  Aunt  gave 
us  all  some  little  food.  At  Ottawa  ford  young  Kilbourne  dropped 
in  a  sun-stroke.  .  .  .  We   camped  near  'Taway  Jones's.   All  the 
time  these  troops  were  looking  for  Old  Brown.   And  father  would 
show  himself  from  time  to  time,  at  daylight,  at  different  places,  at 
a  distance  from  his  real  camp.  Then  word  would  come  to  Wood  that 
Old  Brown  and  his  men  had  been  seen  at  such  a  time,  here  or  there 
on  Marais  des  Cygnes.   Wood  would  order  out  his  men  to  look  for 
him,  forty  miles  off,  the  men  would  spend  themselves  hunting  along 
the  river-bottoms,  through  dense,  prickly  tangles,  and  come  back 
at  night  worn  out  and  furious,  their  horses  done.    I  heard  one  say, 
one  night,  out  of  his  officer's  hearing:  '  D — d  if  I  'm  going  after  Old 
Brown  any  more.    If  I  'm  ordered  out  any  more,  I  '11  go  into  the 
bushes  and  hide.'  This  kept  up  three  or  four  days,  and  all  the  time 
John  Brown  was  camped  so  close  that  he  heard  the  bugle  calls,  and 
got  his  water  at  the  same  spring  where  they  got  theirs.  He  was 
hoping  for  a  chance  to  effect  a  rescue.  One  day  word  came  to  Wood 
that  John  Brown  was  near  and  would  attempt  a  rescue.   Thereupon 
he  repeated  the  message  to  me,  commenting:  'If  such  a  rescue  be 
attempted  and  you  try  to  escape,  you  will  be  the  first  ones  that  we 
will  shoot.'" 

A  correspondent  of  the  New  York  Times  thus  described  the 
torture  of  the  prisoners:  ^^ 

"A  scene  then  followed  which  has  no  parallel  in  a  republican  gov- 
ernment. They  were  chained  two  and  two  by  taking  a  common  trace- 
chain  and  using  a  padlock  at  each  end,  which  was  so  fixed  as  to  make 
a  close  clasp  around  the  ankle.  Like  a  gang  of  slaves  they  were 
thus  driven  on  foot  the  whole  distance  at  the  rate  of  twenty-five 
miles  per  day,  dragging  their  chains  after  them.  They  were  unac- 
customed to  travelling  —  their  chains  had  worn  upon  their  ankles 
until  one  of  them  became  quite  exhausted  and  was  put  in  a  wagon. 


CLOSE  QUARTERS  AT  BLACK  JACK        197 

What  a  humiliating,  disgusting  sight  in  a  free  government  —  to 
see  a  chained  gang  of  men  who  had  committed  no  crime  whatever, 
driven  sixty-five  miles  by  their  merciless  prosecutors  to  attend  a 
trial,  then  have  granted  them  an  unconditional  release  and  no  pro- 
vision for  redress!" 

This  shocking  ill-treatment  of  John  Brown,  Jr.,  which  is 
confirmed  by  much  contemporary  testimony,  aroused  indig- 
nation in  the  North,  and  to  its  effect  upon  John  Brown  was 
attributed,  though  erroneously,  much  of  the  father's  bitter- 
ness toward  the  slaveholders.  According  to  a  special  corre- 
spondent of  the  New  York  Tribune,  First  Lieutenant  James 
Mcintosh,  First  Cavalry,  stated  to  him  in  June  that  the  reason 
for  the  arrest  of  John  Brown,  Jr.,  and  Jason  Brown,  and  the 
severity  of  their  treatment,  was  the  soldiers'  belief  that  they 
were  two  of  the  Pottawatomie  murderers."  As  for  Captain 
Thomas  J.  Wood,  it  was  pointed  out  at  the  time  that  he  was 
a  native  of  Kentucky,  and  it  was,  therefore,  taken  for  granted 
that  his  sympathies  were  with  the  South,  and  his  cruelties 
due  to  friendliness  for  the  Border  Ruffians.  It  is  an  interest- 
ing fact  that  this  officer  later  became,  like  Major  Sedgwick,  a 
distinguished  Northern  general,  one  of  the  very  best  division 
commanders  in  the  Army  of  the  Cumberland,  in  which  he  was 
conspicuous  for  his  wounds,  his  ability  and  his  gallantry. 
After  spending  two  weeks  on  Ottawa  Creek  with  his  prisoners, 
Captain  Wood  marched  them  to  Lecompton  via  Palmyra  and 
Lawrence.  Here,  after  an  examination,  Jason  was  released, 
but  John  Brown,  Jr.,  was  held  on  the  charge  of  high  treason 
because  of  his  political  activity,  and  was  not  released  until 
September  10.  Jason  returned  to  his  own  claim  only  to  find 
his  house  burned  by  the  Border  Ruffians  and  his  cattle  driven 
off,  though  his  oxen  later  returned  to  him,  of  themselves,  from 
Missouri.  He  built  himself  a  shelter  of  fence  rails,  but  soon 
joined  his  father's  company  as  the  only  place  where  he  could 
find  safety.  His  wife  and  the  other  women  went  into  the 
Osawatomie  block-house  for  security,  for  by  this  time  almost 
all  the  Free  State  men  were  out  under  arms." 

John  Brown  and  those  who  had  participated  with  him  in 
the  Pottawatomie  murders  arrived  at  Jason  Brown's  claim 
and  went  into  hiding  on  May  26,  sending  his  son  Owen  to 
Osawatomie  a  day  or  two  later  for  provisions.    Meeting  his 


198  JOHN  BROWN 

brother,  John  Brown,  Jr.,  wandering  in  the  brush,  Owen 
endeavored  to  persuade  him  to  join  his  father,  but  he  admit- 
ted frankly  that  they  were  now  hunted  outlaws,  likely  to  be 
separated  for  months  from  all  of  their  families.  John  then 
declined,  only  to  meet  the  worse  fate  already  recorded. '^  On 
Owen's  return  there  came  to  the  camp  O.  A.  Carpenter,  a  Free 
Soiler  from  the  neighborhood  of  Prairie  City,  who  offered  to 
pilot  Brown  to  the  headwaters  of  Ottawa  Creek,  as  there  were 
two  companies,  one  of  cavalry  and  one  of  Missourians,  then 
in  search  of  the  murderers.  The  Brown  party  broke  camp  at 
once  and  started  at  nightfall  in  the  direction  of  Lawrence ;  it 
comprised  then,  besides  the  leader,  John  Brown,  his  sons  Fred- 
erick, Salmon,  Owen  and  Oliver,  Henry  Thompson,  Weiner, 
Townsley,  August  Bondi  and  the  guide.  Carpenter,  "Dutch 
Henry's  "  horses  furnishing  some  of  the  mounts.  In  the  course 
of  the  first  few  hours  of  the  march,  they  rode  straight  into  the 
bivouac  of  a  detachment  of  United  States  troops  presuma- 
bly in  pursuit  of  them.  It  was  near  the  crossing  of  the  Marais 
des  Cygnes  River,  according  to  Owen  Brown,  and  the  troops 
ordered  them  to  halt.  "It  was  dark,"  he  narrates,  "and  fa- 
ther called  for  the  captain.  In  the  meantime  we  placed  our 
horses  one  beyond  the  other  and  close  together  so  as  to  look 
like  a  small  company.  After  some  time  the  captain  came  out 
in  front  of  his  tent  and  asked:  'Who  are  you?'  I  think  father 
replied,  'There  are  a  few  of  us  going  towards  Lawrence.'  The 
captain  answered:  'All  right,  pass  on.'"  This  these  modern 
successors  of  Robin  Hood  lost  no  time  in  doing,  and  in  biv- 
ouacking for  the  night  some  distance  away,  but  not  far  from 
the  farm  of  Howard  Carpenter,  a  brother  of  their  guide. 

The  next  day  they  entered  some  virgin  woods  on  Ottawa 
Creek  and  camped  near  a  fine  spring.  Bondi,  an  able  Aus- 
trian Jew,  who  had  put  himself  under  Brown's  leadership  after 
hearing  of  the  Pottawatomie  murders,  has  left  the  following 
picture  of  their  al  fresco  life  in  the  forest  primeval : " 

"We  stayed  here  up  to  the  morning  of  Sunday,  the  ist  of  June, 
and  during  these  few  days  I  fully  succeeded  in  understanding  the 
exalted  character  of  my  old  friend  [John  Brown].  He  exhibited  at 
all  times  the  most  affectionate  care  for  each  of  us.  He  also  attended 
to  cooking.  We  had  two  meals  daily,  consisting  of  bread,  baked  in 
skillets ;  this  was  washed  down  with  creek  water,  mixed  with  a  little 


CLOSE  QUARTERS  AT  BLACK  JACK        199 

ginger  and  a  spoon  of  molasses  to  each  pint.  Nevertheless  we  kept 
in  excellent  spirits;  we  considered  ourselves  as  one  family,  allied  to 
one  another  by  the  consciousness  that  it  was  our  duty  to  undergo 
all  these  privations  to  further  the  good  cause;  had  determined  to 
share  any  danger  with  one  another,  that  victory  or  death  might 
find  us  together.  We  were  united  as  a  band  of  brothers  by  the  love 
and  affection  towards  the  man  who  with  tender  words  and  wise 
counsel,  in  the  depth  of  the  wilderness  of  Ottawa  creek,  prepared 
a  handful  of  young  men  for  the  work  of  laying  the  foundation  of  a 
free  commonwealth.  His  words  have  ever  remained  firmly  engraved 
on  my  mind.  Many  and  various  were  the  instructions  he  gave  dur- 
ing the  days  of  our  compulsory  leisure  in  this  camp.  He  expressed 
himself  to  us  that  we  should  never  allow  ourselves  to  be  tempted 
by  any  consideration  to  acknowledge  laws  and  institutions  to  exist 
as  of  right  if  our  conscience  and  reason  condemned  them. 

"He  admonished  us  not  to  care  whether  a  majority,  no  matter 
how  large,  opposed  our  principles  and  opinions.  The  largest  ma- 
jorities were  sometimes  only  organized  mobs,  whose  bowlings  never 
changed  black  into  white,  or  night  into  day.  A  minority  conscious 
of  its  rights,  based  on  moral  principles,  would,  under  a  republican 
government,  sooner  or  later  become  the  majority." 

On  May  30  James  Redpath,  the  correspondent  of  the  St. 
Louis  Democrat  and  the  Tribune,  rode  by  accident  into  this 
gathering.  His  description,  too,  is  worth  reprinting,  since  the 
scene  he  portrays  beyond  doubt  represents  many  similar  ones 
in  John  Brown's  life:  " 

"I  shall  not  soon  forget  the  scene  that  here  opened  to  my  view. 
Near  the  edge  of  the  creek  a  dozen  horses  were  tied,  all  ready  sad- 
dled for  a  ride  for  life,  or  a  hunt  after  Southern  invaders.  A  dozen 
rifles  and  sabres  were  stacked  around  the  trees.  In  an  open  space, 
amid  the  shady  and  lofty  woods,  there  was  a  great  blazing  fire  with 
a  pot  on  it;  a  woman,  bareheaded,  with  an  honest,  sun-burnt  face, 
was  picking  blackberries  from  the  bushes;  three  or  four  armed  men 
were  lying  on  red  and  blue  blankets  on  the  grass;  and  two  fine- 
looking  youths  were  standing,  leaning  on  their  arms,  on  guard  near 
by.  One  of  them  was  the  youngest  son  of  Old  Brown,  and  the  other 
was  'Charley,'  the  brave  Hungarian,  who  was  subsequently  mur- 
dered at  Ossawatomie.  Old  Brown  himself  stood  near  the  fire,  with 
his  shirt-sleeves  rolled  up,  and  a  large  piece  of  pork  in  his  hand. 
He  was  cooking  a  pig.  He  was  poorly  clad,  and  his  toes  protruded 
from  his  boots.  The  old  man  received  me  with  great  cordiality, 
and  the  little  band  gathered  about  me.  But  it  was  for  a  moment 
only;  for  the  Captain  ordered  them  to  renew  their  work.  He  re- 
spectfully but  firmly  forbade  conversation  on  the  Pottawatomie 
affair;  and  said  that,  if  I  desired  any  information  from  the  com- 


200  JOHN  BROWN 

pany  in  relation  to  their  conduct  or  intentions,  he,  as  their  Captain, 
would  answer  for  them  whatever  it  was  proper  to  communicate. 

"In  this  camp  no  manner  of  profane  language  was  permitted; 
no  man  of  immoral  character  was  allowed  to  stay,  excepting  as  a 
prisoner  of  war.  He  made  prayers  in  which  all  the  company  united, 
every  morning  and  evening;  and  no  food  was  ever  tasted  by  his 
men  until  the  Divine  blessing  had  been  asked  on  it.  After  every 
meal,  thanks  were  returned  to  the  Bountiful  Giver.  Often,  I  was 
told,  the  old  man  would  retire  to  the  densest  solitudes,  to  wresde 
with  his  God  in  secret  prayer.  One  of  his  company  subsequently 
informed  me  that,  after  these  retirings,  he  would  say  that  the  Lord 
had  directed  him  in  visions  what  to  do;  that,  for  himself,  he  did  not 
love  warfare,  but  peace,  — only  acting  in  obedience  to  the  will  of 
the  Lord,  and  fighting  God's  battles  for  His  children's  sake. 

"It  was  at  this  time  that  the  old  man  said  to  me :  '  I  would  rather 
have  the  small-pox,  yellow  fever,  and  cholera  all  together  in  my 
camp,  than  a  man  without  principles.  It's  a  mistake,  sir,'  he  con- 
tinued, 'that  our  people  make,  when  they  think  that  bullies  are  the 
best  fighters,  or  that  they  are  the  men  fit  to  oppose  these  Southern- 
ers. Give  me  men  of  good  principles;  God-fearing  men;  men  who 
respect  themselves;  and,  with  a  dozen  of  them,  I  will  oppose  any 
hundred  such  men  as  these  Buford  ruffians!' " 

Besides  Charles  Kaiser,  subsequently  murdered  in  cold 
blood  by  the  Border  Ruffians,  as  Redpath  records,  Benjamin 
Cochrane,  a  settler  on  the  Pottawatomie,  had  joined  Brown's 
band,  the  latter  bringing  the  news  that  Bondi's  cabin  had 
been  burned,  his  cattle  stolen  and  Weiner's  store  plundered, 
in  plain  view,  he  alleged,  of  United  States  troops.  Captain 
Samuel  T.  Shore,  of  the  Prairie  City  Rifles,  and  a  Dr.  Westfall 
also  visited  the  camp,  bringing  news  of  Border  Ruffian  out- 
rages and  asking  for  aid.  1*  Captain  Shore  brought  provisions, 
and  on  May  31  reported  that  a  large  force  of  Missourians  had 
gone  into  camp  near  Black  Jack,  a  spring  on  the  Santa  Fe 
trail,  named  for  a  group  of  "black  jack"  oaks.  It  was  agreed 
that  Brown's  party  and  as  many  men  as  Shore  could  get  to- 
gether should  meet  at  Prairie  City  at  ten  o'clock  in  the  fore- 
noon of  the  next  day.  This  took  place.  Brown's  men  attend- 
ing a  service  held  by  an  itinerant  preacher,  with  part  of  the 
congregation  in  a  building,  part  outside.  The  services  were 
interrupted  by  the  passing  of  three  strangers  in  the  direction 
of  Black  Jack.  Two  of  them  were  captured,  and,  when  ques- 
tioned by  John  Brown,  admitted  that  they  were  from  the 
camp  of  Henry  Clay  Pate,  the  correspondent  of  the  St.  Louis 


CLOSE  QUARTERS  AT  BLACK  JACK        201 

Missouri  Republican,  a  captain  in  the  Missouri  militia  and 
a  deputy  United  States  Marshal,  who,  as  already  related,  on 
the  news  of  the  Pottawatomie  murders,  had  marched  at  once 
to  Paola  and,  after  assisting  in  the  round-up  there  of  Free 
State  men,  including  John  Brown,  Jr.,  and  Jason  Brown,  had 
pushed  on  into  the  Territory  in  search  of  the  other  Browns. 

At  that  time  twenty-four  years  of  age,  a  native  of  Kanawha 
County,  Virginia,  and  a  former  student  of  the  University  of 
Virginia,  Pate  had  in  him  the  making  of  a  fine  soldier,  for  he 
died,  well  spoken  of,  as  Colonel  of  the  Fifth  Virginia  Cavalry, 
in  command  of  a  brigade  of  cavalry,  on  the  same  day  and,  it  is 
said,  within  a  hundred  yards  of  where  the  brilliant  Confed- 
erate General,  J.  E.  B.  Stuart,  was  mortally  wounded.  This 
was  near  Yellow  Tavern,  Virginia,  May  11,  1864."  Pate's, 
John  Brown's  and  Stuart's  careers  were  thus  strangely  inter- 
woven; Pate  and  Brown  first  met  each  other  in  battle  at  Black 
Jack,  and  encountered  Lieutenant  J.  E.  B.  Stuart  three  days 
later,  when  Pate's  men  were  set  free.  Stuart  and  Brown  met 
again  in  the  Harper's  Ferry  raid,  and  Pate  visited  his  old 
captor  in  jail  shortly  thereafter.  They  could  not  have  fore- 
seen that  there  would  be  three  acts  in  all  to  their  public  ap- 
pearance; or  that  all  were  to  perish  violently  within  eight 
years,  two  of  them  after  having  won  for  themselves  imper- 
ishable renown,  the  one  by  reason  of  his  death  on  the  scafifold, 
the  other  because  of  military  achievements  which  have  placed 
him  in  the  front  rank  of  American  cavalry  leaders.  There 
could  be  no  clearer  illustration  than  the  meeting  of  these 
men  of  the  direct  relation  of  "Bleeding  Kansas"  to  Harper's 
Ferry  and  to  the  national  convulsion  of  1861  to  1865.  Kansas 
was  but  the  prelude;  what  more  natural  than  that  some  of 
the  actors  who  appeared  in  the  prologue  should  hold  the  cen- 
tre of  the  stage  in  the  later  acts  of  the  greatest  drama  of  the 
nineteenth  century? 

Members  of  the  startled  Prairie  City  congregation  were 
eager  to  leave  at  once  in  search  of  Pate,  particularly  because 
the  sons  of  a  preacher  named  Moore,  who  had  been  captured 
near  Westport  the  day  before  and  taken  off,  learned  now  that 
their  father  was  in  Pate's  camp.  Brown  counselled,  more 
wisely,  that  the  night  be  awaited  and  the  enemy  assailed  at 
sunrise.    About  forty  men  volunteered  to  go  as  the  Prairie 


202  JOHN  BROWN 

City  Rifles,  but  their  numbers  dwindled  rapidly  as  the  distance 
to  the  enemy  decreased.  At  daylight  on  June  2  Brown's  men 
were  fed,  and  at  sunrise  they  were  dismounted  at  the  Black 
Jack  oaks,  Frederick  Brown  <  being  left  in  charge  of  the 
horses. 2°  A  half  mile  distant  was  Pate's  camp,  the  covered 
wagons  in  front,  then  the  tents,  and  then,  on  higher  ground 
to  the  rear,  the  picketed  horses  and  mules.  A  Missouri 
sentinel  fired  the  first  shot.  As  to  what  happened  thereafter, 
there  is  a  mass  of  testimony.  Henry  Clay  Pate,  in  a  rare 
pamphlet  published  in  New  York  in  1859,^1  has  given  his  side 
of  the  story.  John  Brown  described  the  whole  "battle"  in  a 
letter  to  his  family  dated  "near  Brown's  Station,  June,  1856." 
Both  Pate  and  Brown  discussed  the  fight  at  length  in  the 
Tribune  of  June  13  and  July  11  respectively,  and  Brown's 
Tribune  letter,  hitherto  entirely  overlooked  by  his  various 
biographers,  must  be  taken  as  the  final  word  in  settling  sev- 
eral long-disputed  points.  Besides  the  principal  actors.  Lieu- 
tenant Brockett,  Bondi,  Owen  Brown,  Henry  Thompson, 
Salmon  Brown  and  the  preacher  Moore,  who  was  Pate's 
prisoner,  have  recorded  their  recollections  of  the  conflict. 

In  his  letter  to  his  family  John  Brown  thus  outlines  the 
skirmish : 

"As  I  was  much  older  than  Captain  Shore,  the  principal  direction 
of  the  fight  devolved  on  me.  We  got  to  within  about  a  mile  of  their 
camp  before  being  discovered  by  their  scouts,  and  then  moved  at 
a  brisk  pace.  Captain  Shore  and  men  forming  our  left,  and  my  com- 
pany the  right.  When  within  about  sixty  rods  of  the  enemy.  Cap- 
tain Shore's  men  halted  by  mistake  in  a  very  exposed  situation, 
and  continued  the  fire,  both  his  men  and  the  enemy  being  armed 
with  Sharpe's  rifles.  My  company  had  no  long-shooters.  We  (my 
company)  did  not  fire  a  gun  until  we  gained  the  rear  of  a  bank, 
about  fifteen  or  twenty  rods  to  the  right  of  the  enemy,  where  we 
commenced,  and  soon  compelled  them  to  hide  in  a  ravine.  Cap- 
tain Shore,  after  getting  one  man  wounded,  and  exhausting  his 
ammunition,  came  with  part  of  his  men  to  the  right  of  my  posi- 
tion, much  discouraged.  The  balance  of  his  men,  including  the 
one  wounded,  had  left  the  ground.  Five  of  Captain  Shore's  men 
came  boldly  down  and  joined  my  company,  and  all  but  one  man, 
wounded,  helped  to  maintain  the  fight  until  it  was  over.  I  was 
obliged  to  give  my  consent  that  he  should  go  after  more  help,  when 
all  his  men  left  but  eight,  four  of  whom  I  persuaded  to  remain  in 
a  secure  position,  and  there  busied  one  of  them  in  shooting  the 


CLOSE  QUARTERS  AT  BLACK  JACK        203 

horses  and  mules  of  the  enemy,  which  served  for  a  show  of  fight. 
After  the  firing  had  continued  for  some  two  or  three  hours,  Cap- 
tain Pate  with  twenty-three  men,  two  badly  wounded,  laid  down 
their  arms  to  nine  men,  myself  included,  —  four  of  Captain  Shore's 
men  and  four  of  my  own.  One  of  my  men  (Henry  Thompson)  was 
badly  wounded,  and  after  continuing  his  fire  for  an  hour  longer  was 
obliged  to  quit  the  ground.  Three  others  of  my  company  (but  not 
of  my  family)  had  gone  off.  Salmon  was  dreadfully  wounded  by 
accident,  soon  after  the  fight;  but  both  he  and  Henry  are  fast  recov- 
ering." ^^ 

Captain  Pate  always  alleged  that  he  had  been  taken  pris- 
oner by  John  Brown  by  trickery  and  treachery,  when  under 
a  flag  of  truce,  "a  barbarity  unlooked  for  in  this  country, 
and  unheard  of  in  the  annals  of  honorable  warfare."  But 
Pate  admits  on  the  same  page  that  his  object  in  using  the 
flag  of  truce  was  "  to  gain  time,  and  if  possible  have  hostilities 
suspended  for  a  while." 

"With  this  view,"  he  says,  "a  flag  of  truce  was  sent  out  and  an 
interview  with  the  captain  requested.  Captain  Brown  advanced  and 
sent  for  me.  I  approached  him  and  made  known  the  fact  that  I 
was  acting  under  the  orders  of  the  U.  S.  Marshal  and  was  only  in 
search  of  persons  for  whom  writs  of  arrest  had  been  issued,  and 
that  I  wished  to  make  a  proposition.  He  replied  that  he  would  hear 
no  proposals,  and  that  he  wanted  an  unconditional  surrender.  I 
asked  for  fifteen  minutes  to  answer.  He  refused.  .  .  .  Had  I  known 
whom  I  was  fighting  I  would  not  have  trusted  to  a  flag  of  truce. 
The  enemy's  men  were  then  marched  up  to  within  fifty  paces  of 
mine  and  I  placed  before  them.  Captain  Brown  commanded  me  to 
order  my  company  to  lay  down  their  arms.  Putting  a  revolver  to 
my  breast  he  repeated  the  command,  giving  me  one  or  two  minutes 
to  make  the  order.  He  might  have  shot  me;  his  men  might  have 
riddled  me,  but  I  would  not  have  given  the  order  for  a  world,  much 
less  my  poor  life."  " 

His  company,  he  explains,  saved  his  life  by  voluntarily 
laying  down  their  arms.  There  is  more  braggadocio,  and 
also  the  admission  that  "there  is  another  consolation  for  me, 
if  I  showed  the  white  feather  at  Black  Jack,  namely:  they 
who  fight  and  run  away  shall  live  to  fight  another  day,"  — 
which  was  surely  a  correct  prophecy.  But  he  admits  that  at 
Black  Jack  he  resorted  to  the  flag  of  truce  because  he  saw  — 
what  no  one  else  did  —  that  "reinforcements  for  the  Aboli- 


,204  JOHN  BROWN 

tionists  were  near  and  that  the  fight  would  be  desperate,  and 
if  they  persisted  not  one  would  be  left  to  tell  the  tale  of  car- 
nage that  must  follow." 

To  Pate's  allegations  John  Brown  replied  thus  in  the  Trib- 
une of  July  II,  1856: 

Lawrence,  K.  T.,  Tuesday,  July  i,  1856. 
I  have  just  read  in  the  Tribune  of  June  13,  an  article  from  the  pen 
of  Capt.  H.  C.  Pate,  headed  "The  Battle  of  Black  Jack  Point," 
(in  other  words  the  battle  of  Palmyra) ,  and  take  the  liberty  of  cor- 
recting a  very  few  of  Capt.  Pate's  statements  in  reference  to  that 
affair,  having  had  personal  cognizance  of  what  then  occurred.  The 
first  statement  I  would  notice  is  in  these  words:  "At  first  the  enemy 
squatted  down  in  open  prairie  and  fired  at  a  distance  from  300  to 
400  yards  from  us.  Their  lines  were  soon  broken  and  they  hastily 
ran  to  a  ravine  for  shelter."  This  is  wrong,  as  my  company  formed 
a  distinct  line  from  Capt.  Shore  and  his  men,  and  without  stopping 
to  fire  a  gun  passed  at  once  into  a  ravine  on  the  enemy's  right, 
where  we  commenced  our  fire  on  them,  and  where  we  remained  till  . 
the  enemy  hoisted  the  white  flag.  I  expected  Capt.  Shore  to  form 
his  men  and  occupy  a  similar  position  on  the  left  of  the  enemy,  but 
was  disappointed,  he  halting  on  the  eastern  slope  above  the  ravine, 
in  front  of  the  enemy's  camp.  This  I  consider  as  the  principal  mis- 
take in  our  part  of  the  action,  as  Capt.  Shore  was  unable  to  retain 
this  unfortunate  position:  and  when  he,  with  part  of  his  men  left 
it  and  joined  my  company,  the  balance  of  his  company  quit  the  field 
entirely.  One  of  them  was  wounded  and  disabled.  Capt.  Shore 
and  all  his  men,  I  believe,  had  for  a  considerable  time  kept  that 
position,  and  received  the  fire  of  the  enemy  like  the  best  regular 
troops  (to  their  praise  I  would  say  it)  and  until  they  had  to  a  con- 
siderable extent  exhausted  their  ammunition.  Capt.  Pate  says: 
"When  the  fight  commenced  our  forces  were  nearly  equal."  I  here 
say  most  distinctly,  that  twenty-six  officers  and  men  all  told,  was 
the  entire  force  on  the  Free  State  side  who  were  on  the  ground  at 
all  during  the  fight  or  in  any  way  whatever  participated  in  it.  Of 
these  Capt.  Shore  and  his  company  numbered  sixteen  all  told.  My 
company,  ten  only,  including  myself.  Six  of  these  were  of  my  own 
family.  He  says  further,  "but  I  saw  reenforcements  for  the  Aboli- 
tionists were  near,"  &c.  Capt.  Pate,  it  seems,  could  see  much  better 
than  we;  for  we  neither  saw  nor  received  any  possible  reenforce- 
ments until  some  minutes  after  the  surrender,  nor  did  we  under- 
stand that  any  help  was  near  us,  and  at  the  time  of  the  surrender 
our  entire  force,  officers  and  men,  all  told,  had  dwindled  down  to 
but  fifteen  men,  who  were  either  on  or  about  the  field.  Capt.  Shore 
and  his  men  had  all  left  the  field  but  eight.  One  of  his  men  who  had 
left  was  wounded  and  was  obliged  to  leave.  Of  the  eight  who  re- 
mained four,  whose  names  I  love  to  repeat,  stood  nobly  by  four  of 


CLOSE  QUARTERS  AT  BLACK  JACK        205 

my  men  until  the  fight  was  over.  The  other  four  had,  with  two  of 
my  company,  become  disheartened  and  gone  to  a  point  out  of  reach 
of  the  enemy's  fire,  where,  by  the  utmost  exertion,  I  had  kept  them 
to  make  a  little  show,  and  busied  one  of  them  in  shooting  mules 
and  horses  to  divert  the  others  and  keep  them  from  running  off. 
One  of  my  men  had  been  terribly  wounded  and  left,  after  holding 
on  for  an  hour  afterward.  Fifteen  Free  State  men,  all  told,  were  all 
that  remained  on  and  near  the  ground  at  the  time  the  surrender 
was  made ;  and  it  was  made  to  nine  men  only,  myself  included  in 
that  number.  Twenty-five  of  the  enemy,  including  two  men  terribly 
wounded,  were  made  prisoners.  Capt.  Pate  reproaches  me  with 
the  most  dishonorable  violation  of  the  rights  secured  under  a  flag 
of  truce,  but  says:  "My  object  was  to  gain  time,  and  if  possible  have 
hostilities  suspended  for  a  while."  So  much,  in  his  own  language, 
for  good  faith,  of  which  he  found  me  so  destitute.  Now  for  my  own 
dishonorable  violation  of  the  flag  of  truce:  When  I  first  saw  it  I  had 
just  been  to  the  six  discouraged  men  above  named,  and  started  at 
once  to  meet  it,  being  at  that  moment  from  sixty  to  eighty  rods 
from  the  enemy's  camp,  and  met  it  about  half  way  carried  by  two 
men,  one  a  Free  State  man,  a  prisoner  of  theirs;  the  other  was  young 
Turner,  of  whom  Capt.  Pate  speaks  in  such  high  terms.  I  think 
him  as  brave  as  Capt.  Pate  represents.  Of  his  disposition  and  char- 
acter in  other  respects  I  say  nothing  now.  The  country  and  the 
world  may  probably  know  more  hereafter.  I  at  once  learned  from 
those  bearing  the  flag  of  truce  that  in  reality  they  had  no  other 
design  than  to  divert  me  and  consume  time  by  getting  me  to  go  to 
their  camp  to  hear  explanations.  I  then  told  young  James  to  stand 
by  me  with  his  arms,  saying,  "We  are  both  equally  exposed  to  the 
fire  of  both  parties,"  and  sent  their  prisoner  back  to  tell  the  Cap- 
tain that,  if  he  had  any  proposal  to  make,  to  come  at  once  and  make 
it.  He  also  came  armed  to  where  I  and  young  James  were  —  some 
forty  or  fifty  rods  from  either  party  and  I  alone.  He  immediately 
began  to  tell  about  his  authority  from  the  General  Government,  by 
way  of  explanation,  as  he  said.  I  replied  that  I  should  listen  to  no- 
thing of  that  kind,  and  that,  if  he  had  any  proposal  to  make,  I  would 
hear  it  at  once,  and  that,  if  he  had  none  for  me,  I  had  one  for  him, 
and  that  was  immediate  and  unconditional  surrender.  I  then  said 
to  him  and  young  James,  (both  well  armed,)  "You  must  go  down 
to  your  camp,  and  there  all  of  you  lay  down  your  arms,"  when  the 
three  started,  they  continuing  armed  until  the  full  surrender  was 
made.  I,  an  old  man,  of  nearly  sixty  years,  and  fully  exposed  to  the 
weapons  of  two  young  men  at  my  side,  as  well  as  the  fire  of  their 
men  in  their  camp,  so  far,  and  no  further ,_  took  them  prisoners 
under  their  flag  of  truce.  On  our  way  to  their  camp,  as  we  passed 
within  hailing  distance  of  the  eight  men,  who  had  kept  their  posi- 
tion firm,  I  directed  them  to  pass  down  the  ravine  in  front  of  the 
enemy's  camp,  about  twenty  rods  off,  to  receive  the  surrender.  Such 
was  my  violation  of  the  flag  of  truce.   Let  others  judge.   I  had  not 


206  JOHN  BROWN 

during  the  time  of  the  above  transactions  with  Capt.  Pate  and  his 
flag  of  truce  a  single  man  secreted  near  me  who  could  have  possibly 
have  pointed  a  rifle  at  Capt.  Pate,  nor  a  man  nearer  than  forty  rods 
till  we  came  near  their  camp.  Capt.  Pate  complains  of  our  treat- 
ment in  regard  to  cooking,  &c,  but  forgets  to  say  that,  after  the  fight 
was  over,  when  I  and  some  of  my  men  had  eaten  only  once  in  nearly 
forty-eight  hours,  we  first  of  all  gave  Capt.  Pate  and  his  men  as 
good  a  dinner  as  we  could  obtain  for  them,  I  being  the  last  man  to 
take  a  morsel.  During  the  time  we  kept  them  it  was  with  difficulty 
I  could  keep  enough  men  in  camp  away  from  their  business  and 
their  families  to  guard  our  prisoners ;  I  being  myself  obliged  to  stand 
guard  six  hours  —  between  four  in  the  afternoon  and  six  in  the 
morning.  We  were  so  poorly  supplied  with  provisions  that  the  best 
we  could  possibly  do  was  to  let  our  prisoners  use  their  own  provi- 
sions; and  as  for  tents,  we,  for  the  most  part,  had  none,  while  we 
sent  a  team  and  brought  in  theirs,  which  they  occupied  exclusively. 
Capt.  Pate  and  his  men  had  burned  or  carried  off  my  own  tent, 
where  one  of  my  sons  lived,  with  all  its  contents,  provisions  &c, 
some  four  or  five  days  before  the  fight.  We  did  not  search  our  pris- 
oners, nor  take  from  them  one  cent  of  their  money,  a  watch,  or  any- 
thing but  arms,  horses,  and  military  stores.  I  would  ask  Capt.  Pate 
and  his  men  how  our  people  fared  at  their  hands  at  Lawrence, 
Osawattamie,  Brown's  Station,  and  elsewhere,  my  two  sons,  John, 
jr.,  and  Jason  Brown,  being  of  the  number?  We  never  had,  at  any 
time,  near  Capt.  Pate,  or  where  his  men  were,  to  exceed  half  the 
number  he  states.  We  had  only  three  men  wounded  in  the  fight, 
and  all  of  those  have  nearly  recovered,  and  not  one  killed  or  since 
dead.  See  his  statement.  I  am  sorry  that  a  young  man  of  good  ac- 
quirements and  fair  abilities  should,  by  his  own  statement,  know- 
ingly and  wilfully  made,  do  himself  much  greater  injury  than  he 
even  accuses  "Old  Brown"  of  doing  him.  He  is  most  welcome  to 
all  the  satisfaction  which  his  treatment  of  myself  and  family  before 
the  fight,  his  polite  and  gentlemanly  return  for  my  own  treatment 
of  himself  and  his  men  have  called  forth  since  he  was  a  prisoner, 
and  released  by  Col.  Sumner,  can  possibly  afford  to  his  honorable 
and  ingenuous  mind.  I  have  also  seen  a  brief  notice  of  this  affair 
by  Lieutenant  Brockett,  and  it  affords  me  real  satisfaction  to  say 
that  I  do  not  see  a  single  sentence  in  it  that  is  in  the  least  degree 
characterized  by  either  direct  or  indirect  untruthfulness.  I  will 
add  that  when  Capt.  Pate's  sword  and  pistols  were  taken  from  him 
at  his  camp,  he  particularly  requested  me  to  take  them  into  my  own 
care,  which  I  did,  and  returned  them  to  him  when  Col.  Sumner  took 
him  and  his  men  from  us.  I  subjoin  a  copy  of  an  agreement  made 
with  Capt.  Shore  and  myself  by  Capt.  Pate  and  his  Lieutenant 
Brocket,  in  regard  to  exchange  of  prisoners  taken  by  both  parties, 
which  agreement  Col.  Sumner  did  not  require  the  Pro-Slavery 
party  to  comply  with.  A  good  illustration  of  governmental  pro- 
tection to  the  people  of  Kansas  from  the  first: 


CLOSE  QUARTERS  AT  BLACK  JACK        207 

(Copy) 

This  is  an  article  of  agreement  between  Captains  John  Brown, 
sen.,  and  Samuel  T.  Shore  of  the  first  part,  and  Capt.  H.  C.  Pate 
and  Lieut.  W.  B.  Brocket  of  the  second  part,  and  witnesses,  that 
in  consideration  of  the  fact  that  the  parties  of  the  first  part  have 
a  number  of  Capt.  Pate's  company  prisoners  that  they  agree  to 
give  up  and  fully  liberate  one  of  their  prisoners  for  one  of  those 
lately  arrested  near  Stanton,  Osawattamie,  and  Potawatamie  and 
so  on,  one  of*the  former  for  one  of  the  latter  alternately  until 
all  are  liberated.  It  is  understood  and  agreed  by  the  parties  that 
the  sons  of  Capt.  John  Brown,  sen,  Capt.  John  Brown,  jr.,  and 
Jason  Brown,  are  to  be  among  the  lilDerated  parties  (if  not  already 
liberated),  and  are  to  be  exchanged  for  Capt.  Pate  and  Lieut. 
Brocket  respectively.  The  prisoners  are  to  be  brought  on  neutral 
ground  and  exchanged.  It  is  agreed  that  the  neutral  ground  shall 
be  at  or  near  the  house  of  John  T.  or  Ottawa  Jones  of  this  Terri- 
tory, and  that  those  who  have  been  arrested,  and  have  been  liber- 
ated, will  be  considered  in  the  same  light  as  those  not  liberated, 
but  they  must  appear  in  person  or  answer  in  writing  that  they 
are  at  liberty.  The  arms,  particularly  the  side  arms,  of  each  one 
exchanged,  are  to  be  returned  with  the  prisoners,  also  the  horses 
so  far  as  practicable. 

(Signed) 

John  Brown, 
S.  T.  Shore, 
H.  C.  Pate, 
W.  B.  Brocket. 
Prairie  City,  Kansas  Ter'y.   June  2,  a.  d.,  1856. 

Captain  Pate,  after  his  interview  with  Brown  in  jail  at 
Charlestown,  to  which  he  had  three  witnesses,  obtained  their 
signatures  to  an  account  of  the  Black  Jack  fight  which  in  some 
respects  is  obviously  erroneous ;  in  it  he  endeavors  to  repre- 
sent that  John  Brown  admitted  that  the  flag  of  truce  was  vio- 
lated. Unfortunately  for  Pate's  reputation  as  a  chronicler,  his 
pamphlet  is  frankly  partisan.  Moreover,  there  were  several 
witnesses  who  testified  that  Pate  ordered  his  men  to  lay  down 
their  arms,  instead  of  risking  death  by  silence,  as  he  avers. 

The  crux  of  the  "  battle"  of  Black  Jack  came  when  John 
Brown  ordered  Shore's  men  to  shoot  Pate's  horses  and  mules. 
As  soon  as  he  noticed  this  going  on,  Frederick  Brown,  who  had 
been  left  behind  with  the  horses,  could  no  longer  contain  him- 
self in  inactivity,  but,  mounting  one  of  the  animals  and  bran- 
dishing his  sword,  rode  around  Pate's  camp  with  his  horse  at 


208  JOHN  BROWN 

a  run,  crying  out,  "  Father,  we  have  got  them  surrounded  and 
have  cut  off  their  communications!"  Frederick,Brown  was  a 
large  man,  and  on  this  occasion  he  acte3rin  such  a  wild  manner 
as  to  give  rise  to  the  charge  that  he  was  not  of  sound  mind. 
His  extraordinary  appearance  undoubtedly  frightened  Pate's 
men,  who  naturally  believed  that  he  had  other  men  behind 
him  and  that  they  were  really  surrounded.  They  fired  a  num- 
ber of  shots  at  him  in  vain,  and  it  was  only  a  fewtainutes  after 
this  that  they  raised  the  flag  of  truce  and  the  firing  ceased.  It 
is  interesting  to  note  that  among  those  who  ran  away  with 
Shore's  men  was  James  Townsley,  the  first  to  tell  the  story  of 
the  Pottawatomie  murders.  Pate's  Free  Soil  prisoners  were  of 
course  at  once  released  by  John  Brown,  after  having  been 
under  fire  throughout  the  engagement,  which  ended  between 
one  and  two  o'clock.  Among  them,  besides  the  preacher  Moore, 
was  a  Dr.  Graham,  who  had  been  shot  through  the  leg  in  en- 
deavoring to  escape.  He  was  not  sufficiently  hurt,  however,  to 
prevent  his  attending  to  the  wounded,  of  whom  Henry  Thomp- 
son was  the  most  seriously  injured.  After  the  battle,  Shore's 
men  returned,  and  with  them  the  company  known  as  the  Law- 
rence "Stubbs,"  under  Captain  J.  B.  Abbott,  a  well-known 
Lawrence  fighter,  who  had  marched  as  rapidly  as  possible  in 
order  to  succor  Brown.  Owen  Brown  estimates  that  this  rein- 
forcement amounted  to  one  hundred  and  fifty  men,  and  in  this 
he  is  probably  not  far  wrong.  As  John  Brown  himself  put  it: 

"After  the  fight,  numerous  Free  State  men  who  could  not  be  got 
out  before  were  on  hand ;  and  some  of  them  I  am  ashamed  to  add, 
were  very  busy  not  only  with  the  plunder  of  our  enemies,  but  with 
our  private  effects,  leaving  us,  while  guarding  our  prisoners  and 
providing  in  regard  to  them,  much  poorer  than  before  the  battle."" 

"We  were  taken,"  records  Pate,  "to  a  camp  on  Middle  Ot- 
tawa Creek  and  closely  guarded.  We  had  to  cook  for  ourselves, 
furnish  provisions,  and  sleep  on  the  ground,  but  we  were  not 
treated  unkindly.  Here  we  remained  for  three  days  and  nights, 
until  Colonel  Sumner  at  the  head  of  a  company  of  Dragoons 
released  us  from  our  imprisonment."  ^^ 

Colonel  Sumner  officially  reported  from  Leavenworth,  on 
June  5,  his  rescue  of  Pate's  command,  and  his  heading  off 
about  two  hundred  and  fifty  men  under  General  Whitfield 


CLOSE  QUARTERS  AT  BLACK  JACK        209 

and  General  Coffee,  of  the  militia,  who,  as  we  have  already 
seen  from  Whitfield's  letter,  were  bent  on  rescuing  Captain 
Pate.  Colonel  Sumner's  force  was  only  fifty  men.  With  him 
were  Major  Sedgwick  and  Lieutenant  Stuart,  who  thus  met 
Pate  and  Brown.  Colonel  Sumner  records  the  prompt  dispersal 
of  Brown's  men,  and  his  surprise  at  finding  General  Whit- 
field, a  Member  of  Congress,  and  General  Coffee,  of  the  MiHtia, 
at  the  head  of  the  advancing  Border  Ruffians.  He  informed 
them  that  he  was  there, 

"by  order  of  the  President,  and  the  proclamation  of  the  Governor, 
to  disperse  all  armed  bodies  assembled  without  authority;  and  fur- 
ther, that  my  duty  was  perfectly  plain,  and  would  certainly  be  done. 
I  then  requested  General  Coffee  to  assemble  his  people,  and  I  read 
to  them  the  President's  despatch  and  the  governor's  proclamation. 
The  general  then  said  that  he  should  not  resist  the  authority  of  the 
general  government,  and  that  his  party  would  disperse,  and  shortly 
afterwards  they  moved  off.  Whether  this  is  a  final  dispersion  of  these 
lawless  armed  bodies,  is  very  doubtful.  If  the  proclamation  of  the 
Governor  had  been  issued  six  months  earlier,  and  had  been  rightly 
maintained,  these  difficulties  would  have  been  avoided.  As  the  mat- 
ter now  stands,  there  is  great  danger  of  a  serious  commotion."^" 

Major  Sedgwick  recorded  the  dispersal  of  Brown's  band  in 
the  following  words: 

"Things  are  getting  worse  everyday,  and  it  is  hard  to  foresee  the 
result.  One  of  these  things  must  happen:  either  it  will  terminate 
in  civil  war  or  the  vicious  will  band  themselves  together  to  plunder 
and  murder  all  whom  they  meet.  The  day  after  writing  my  last 
letter  I  started  with  a  squadron  of  cavalry  to  go  about  forty  miles 
to  break  up  an  encampment  of  free-soilers  who  had  been  robbing 
and  taking  prisoners  any  pro-slavery  man  they  could  meet.  I  pro- 
ceeded to  the  place,  and  when  within  a  short  distance  two  of  their 
principal  men  came  out  and  wanted  to  make  terms.  They  were  told 
that  no  terms  would  be  made  with  lawless  and  armed  men,  but 
that  they  must  give  up  their  prisoners  and  disperse  at  once.  We 
marched  into  their  camp,  situated  on  a  small  island  and  entrenched, 
and  found  about  one  hundred  and  fifty  men  and  twenty  prisoners, 
who  were  released  and  the  men  dispersed."" 

It  was  John  Brown  himself  who  came  out  and  endeav- 
ored to  negotiate  with  the  forces  of  the  United  States  as  if 
he  were  in  control  of  a  coordinate  body.  It  was  he,  too,  who 
had  insisted  on  the  camp's  being  so  heavily  entrenched.  On 
June  3  he  had  directed  the  pillaging  of  the  store  of  one  J.  M. 


210  JOHN  BROWN 

Bernard  at  Centropolis,  he  being  a  pro-slavery  sympathizer,  in 
order,  Brown's  devoted  follower  Bondi  declared: 

"to  improve  our  exterior,  the  Brown  outfit  being  altogether  in  rags. 
Frederick  and  Oliver  Brown  and  three  members  of  the  Stubbs  were 
the  raiding  party.  They  returned  with  some  palm-leaf  hats,  check 
shirts,  linen  coats,  a  few  linen  pants,  and  bandanna  handkerchiefs. ' ' '"' 

To  the  victors  belonged  the  spoils.  Since  it  was  now  "war" 
in  deadly  earnest,  the  raiding  of  the  country  for  supplies  was, 
in  John  Brown's  opinion,  wholly  justified,  as  had  already  been 
the  "impressing"  of  pro-slavery  horses.  Within  one  hour  sub- 
sequent to  the  interview  between  Sumner  and  Brown,  re- 
ported Bondi,  Camp  Brown  had  ceased  to  exist,  and  this  hasty 
movement  was  not  delayed  by  Salmon  Brown's  accidentally 
shooting  himself  in  the  right  shoulder.  Subsequently,  Colonel 
Sumner  was  severely  criticised  by  the  pro-slavery  men  for  not 
having  arrested  Brown.  He  had,  however,  no  warrants  for 
anybody's  arrest,  and  there  was  with  his  command  a  deputy 
United  States  marshal,  William  J.  Preston  by  name.  The  lat- 
ter seems  to  have  been  afraid,  even  in  the  presence  of  troops, 
to  serve  the  warrants  he  had  with  him.^'  Salmon  Brown 
and  Henry  Thompson  testify  that  Colonel  Sumner  told  John 
Brown  that  Preston  had  warrants  and  that  they  would  be 
served  in  his  presence.  Then  he  ordered  Preston  to  proceed. 
"  I  do  not  recognize  any  one  for  whom  I  have  warrants,"  re- 
plied the  deputy  marshal.  "Then  what  are  you  here  for?" 
asked  Colonel  Sumner  indignantly.'" 

The  Brown  family  did  not  move  far  after  being  ordered 
to  disperse.  The  wounded  Salmon  was  taken  to  Carpenter's 
near-by  cabin  and  nursed  by  Bondi ;  the  others,  with  Weiner, 
camped  in  a  thicket  about  half  a  mile  from  the  abandoned 
Camp  Brown.  On  June  8  Bondi  rejoined  them,  Salmon  being 
no  longer  in  need  of  his  services,  and  was  at  once  asked  to  visit 
John  Brown,  Jr.,  and  Jason  Brown,  then  prisoners  in  Captain 
Wood's  near-by  camp.  At  their  request  Bondi  visited  the 
Adairs  and  found  the  Brown  women  safe  at  the  residence  of 
David  Garrison,  a  neighbor.  On  Thursday,  June  lo,  Bondi 
had  returned  to  John  Brown,  and  at  a  council  held  that  day 
i't  was  agreed  to  separate.  Weiner  had  business  in  Louisiana; 
Henry  Thompson  was  also  taken  to  Carpenter's  cabin,  and 


CLOSE  QUARTERS  AT  BLACK  JACK        211 

Bondi  accompanied  Weiner  as  far  as  Leavenworth  on  the  lat- 
ter's  way  to  St.  Louis.  He  then  returned  to  the  seat  of  war. 
John  Brown  and  his  unwounded  sons  remained  hidden  in  the 
thickets. 

Governor  Shannon,  on  hearing  of  the  Black  Jack  episode, 
reported  it  to  President  Pierce  as  a  sign  of  the  unrest  of  the  Ter- 
ritory, with  a  comment  that  could  hardly  have  gratified  Cap- 
tain Pate,  for  it  charged  him  with  being  "  at  the  head  of  an  un- 
authorized company."  ^i  This  weak  Governor  was  not  having 
a  particularly  easy  time  of  it.  The  Territory  was  seething  with 
lawlessness.  The  administration  at  Washington  was  getting 
restless  in  view  of  the  outburst  of  anger  in  the  North  over  the 
sacking  of  Lawrence.  Indeed,  on  May  23,  before  the  news  of 
this  raid  had  reached  Washington,  President  Pierce  sent  two 
despatches  '^  to  Governor  Shannon  which  betray  his  extreme 
nervousness.  He  wished  to  know  if  it  was  true  that  Marshal 
Donaldson  was  near  Lawrence,  if  it  had  been  necessary  to 
use  troops  to  enforce  writs,  and,  if  so,  whether  other  forces 
besides  those  of  Sumner  and  Lieut.-Col.  Cooke,  of  the  Dra- 
goons, had  been  called  in.  In  his  second  despatch  he  urged 
Governor  Shannon  to  "repress  lawless  violence  in  whatever 
form  it  may  manifest  itself,"  and  it  was  this  despatch  which 
Colonel  Sumner  read  to  General  Whitfield,  together  with  Shan- 
non's proclamation  commanding  "all  persons  belonging  to 
military  organizations  within  this  Territory,  not  authorized 
by  the  laws  thereof,  to  disperse  and  retire  peaceably  to  their 
respective  abodes,"  under  penalty  of  being  dispersed  by  the 
United  States  troops.  Shannon  further  ordered  ''  that  all  law- 
abiding  citizens,  without  regard  to  party  names  and  distinc- 
tions, should  be  protected  in  their  persons  and  property,  and 
that  "all  aggressing  parties  from  without  the  Territory  must 
be  repelled."  It  is  only  fair  to  Shannon  to  add  that  he  made 
requisitions  for  sufficient  United  States  troops,  and  urged  upon 
their  commanders  that  the  country  to  the  south  of  Lawrence 
be  properly  protected.  When  Shannon's  proclamation  was 
two  days  old,  President  Pierce  again  telegraphed  to  the  Gov- 
ernor :  ' '  Maintain  the  laws  firmly  and  impartially,  and  take  care 
that  no  good  citizen  has  just  ground  to  complain  of  the  want 
of  protection."" 

Despite  these  admonitions  and  the  activity  of  the  troops, 


212  JOHN  BROWN 

the  disorders  continued.  Early  in  the  morning  of  the  5th  of 
June,  Major  Abbott,  with  his  Wakarusa  company  of  Free  State 
men  and  a  body  of  Lawrence  youths,  assailed  Franklin,  four 
and  a  half  miles  from  Lawrence,  where  were  some  Missourians 
charged  with  being  members  of  the  Law  and  Order  party  and 
with  having  amassed  considerable  plunder.  '^  It  was,  in  the  eyes 
of  the  Free  State  men,  a  "mischievous  camp."  The  pro-slavery 
men,  who  had  one  man  killed  and  several  wounded,  defended 
themselves  with  a  cannon,  but  inflicted  no  loss  on  their  assail- 
ants. The  Wakarusa  company  arrived  too  late  to  take  part 
in  the  fighting,  and  busied  itself  in  levying  on  the  stores  of  the 
pro-slavery  men,  loading  a  wagon  with  all  the  rifles,  powder, 
caps,  flour,  bacon,  coffee,  sugar,  etc.,  that  could  be  found.  They 
made  Franklin,  says  Andreas,  "too  hot  for  the  enemy,  and 
compelled  them  to  evacuate."  It  is  interesting  to  note  that 
this  and  similar  robberies  by  Free  State  men  were  treated  in 
the  Northern  press  and  by  subsequent  historians  as  absolutely 
proper  and  legitimate  acts  of  war,  while  similar  outrages  on 
the  part  of  the  pro-slavery  forces  were  pictured  as  too  terrible  to 
be  borne.  Thus  Bondi  relates  that  the  final  pro-slavery  wrong- 
doing, which  led  John  Brown  to  leave  his  camp  and  march  after 
Pate,  was  the  entering  of  a  Free  State  house  by  three  of  Pate's 
men  and  their  stealing  the  guns  of  the  seven  Free  Soilers  who 
occupiedit.  "It  was  impossible,"  says  Bondi,  "toputupwith 
such  a  shameful  outrage,"  '^  —  especially  so  for  the  men  who 
bore  the  guilt  of  the  Pottawatomie  murders.  Later  on  in  his 
reminiscences,  Bondi  relates  with  great  gusto  how  he  and  his 
companions,  when  in  need  of  fresh  meat,  sought  out  "Dutch 
Henry"  Sherman's  herd  of  cattle  and  killed  what  they  needed 
without  asking  any  one's  permission.  This  was,  of  course,  a 
justifiable  act  of  war,  in  his  opinion.  The  dispersal  of  Free 
State  forces  by  Federal  troops  was  always  an  outrage ;  similar 
treatment  of  the  pro-slavery  bands,  just  and  proper. 

Two  days  after  the  Free  State  attack  on  Franklin,  Whit- 
field's men,  returning  to  Missouri,  reached  Osawatomie  just 
after  Major  Sedgwick,  with  a  company  of  dragoons,  had  left 
it  on  his  return  to  Fort  Leavenworth.  They  seized  the  oppor- 
tunity to  take  revenge  for  the  Pottawatomie  murders.  Every 
house  was  entered  and  pillaged,  women  being  robbed  even 
of  earrings,  and  fourteen  horses  were  stolen,"  thus  justifying 


CLOSE  QUARTERS  AT  BLACK  JACK        213 

Colonel  Sumner's  fears  as  to  the  genuineness  of  Whitfield's 
promise  to  disperse  his  men.  That  anything  was  left  standing 
was  due  to  fear  that  United  States  troops  might  appear.  After 
an  hour  and  a  half  of  terrorizing  women  and  children  and  the 
few  men  left  at  home,  Whitfield's  forces  moved  on,  laden  with 
booty,  and  finally  disbanded  on  reaching  Westport.  As  this 
town  lies  to  the  northeast  of  Prairie  City,  and  Osawatomie  far 
to  the  southeast,  it  is  obvious  that  Whitfield  deliberately  dis- 
obeyed Sumner's  instructions  to  leave  the  Territory,  and  went 
out  of  his  way  to  revenge  upon  the  Free  State  settlement  at 
Osawatomie  the  Pottawatomie  murders  that  were  the  original 
reason  for  his  and  Pate's  entry  into  Kansas.  Sumner  was  nat- 
urally indignant,  so  the  Tribune  reported  on  June  23,  when 
he  heard  of  Whitfield's  breach  of  faith;  but  the  mischief  was 
then  done,  and  Whitfield  doubled  on  his  tracks  and  returned 
safely  to  Westport.  This  Whitfield  raid,  while  unaccompa- 
nied by  loss  of  life,  by  itself  wholly  disposes  of  the  conten- 
tion of  James  Freeman  Clarke  and  others  that  after  John 
Brown's  murders  "the  country  had  peace."  Certainly  it  is 
plain  proof  that  the  killings  of  the  Doyles,  Sherman  and  Wil- 
kinson, far  from  stopping  the  aggressiveness  of  the  Border 
Ruffians,  brought  down  their  especial  vengeance  upon  Brown's 
Free  State  neighbors. 

Even  before  they  plundered  Osawatomie,  Whitfield's  men 
were  credited  with  one  of  the  worst  crimes  of  this  bloody 
period.  They  had  tried  one  Cantrall,  a  Missourian,  on  the 
charge  of  "treason  to  Missouri,"  for  sympathizing  with  and 
aiding  the  Free  State  forces  at  Black  Jack,  although  he  was  not 
an  actual  participant  in  the  engagement.  After  a  mock  court- 
martial,  Cantrall  was  taken  into  a  near-by  ravine.  Other  pris- 
oners of  Whitfield  reported  afterwards  that  there  was  a  "shot, 
followed  by  the  cry,  'O  God!  I  am  shot!  I  am  murdered.' 
Then  there  was  another  shot  followed  by  a  long  scream ;  then 
another  shot  and  all  was  silent."  One  of  the  prisoners  escaped 
and  told  this  story,  and  the  body  was  found  in  the  ravine  with 
three  bullet-holes  in  the  breast.^^  Lieut.-Col.  Philip  St.  George 
Cooke,  commanding  the  Second  Dragoons,  the  other  Federal 
regiment  in  Kansas,  reported  officially  on  June  18  that  "the 
disorders  in  the  Territory  have,  in  fact,  changedtheir  charac- 
ter, and  consist  now  of  robberies  and  assassinations,  by  a  set 


214  JOHN   BROWN 

of  bandits  whom  the  excitement  of  the  times  has  attracted 
hither."'^  W.  A.  Phillips,  one  of  the  best  of  the  contempo- 
rary chroniclers,  wrote  that  during  the  period  between  the 
Pottawatomie  murders  and  June  i8, 

"proslavery  parties  stealthily  prowled  through  the  territory  or 
hung  upon  the  Missouri  borders.  Outrages  were  so  common  that 
it  would  be  impossible  to  enumerate  them.  Murders  were  frequent, 
many  of  them  passing  secretly  and  unrecorded ;  some  of  them  only 
revealed  by  the  discovery  of  some  mouldering  remains  of  mortality. 
Two  men,  found  hanging  on  a  tree  near  Westport,  ill-fated  free- 
state  settlers,  were  taken  down  and  buried  by  the  troops;  but  so 
shallow  was  the  grave  that  the  prairie  wolves  dug  them  up  and 
partly  devoured  them,  before  they  were  again  found  and  buried."" 

Lieutenant  James  Mcintosh,  First  Cavalry,  reported  on 
June  13,  from  Palmyra,  that  a  great  many  robberies  were  being 
committed  on  the  various  roads,  and  one  detachment  of  his 
men  reported  to  him  that  at  Cedar  Creek,  twenty-five  miles 
away, 

"several  men  were  lying  murdered.  They  saw  the  body  of  one  who 
they  knew  from  his  dress  to  be  a  Mr.  Carter,  who  was  taken  pris- 
oner from  this  place  a  few  nights  ago.  This  body  was  shown  to  them 
by  a  member  of  one  of  the  companies  who  was  under  the  influence 
of  liquor,  and  who  told  my  men  that  he  could  point  out  the  other 
abolitionists  if  they  wished  to  see  them."  " 

O.  C.  Brown,  the  founder  of  Osawatomie,  wrote  on  June 
24,  1856,  that  for  thirty  days  (since  Pottawatomie)  there  had 
been  a  "reign  of  terror." 

"Hundreds  of  men,"  he  declared,  "have  come  from  Missouri,  and 
the  Southern  and  pauper  crowd  that  live  by  plunder  are  hunting 
down  the  supposed  murderers  at  Pottawatomie.  But  almost  daily 
murders  are  committed  near  Westport  and  nothing  done."  He 
added :  "Keep  us  in  flour  and  bacon  and  we  can  stand  it  a  good  pull 
longer.  .  .  .  Remember  that  now,  now,  now,  is  the  time  to  render 
us  aid.""' 

There  is  other  contemporary  testimony  to  the  straits  to 
which  John  Brown's  act  reduced  Osawatomie. 

Free  Soilers  in  numbers  were  stopped  and  turned  out  of 
the  Territory  when  caught  near  the  border.  One  John  A. 
Baillie  was  shot  and  badly  injured,  besides  being  robbed  of 
his  possessions."    A  young  man  named  Hill  was  similarly 


CLOSE  QUARTERS  AT  BLACK  JACK        215 

robbed,  and  then  bound  and  barbarously  gagged."  Another 
victim  of  Border  Ruffian  fury  was  strung  up  to  a  tree  only 
to  be  let  down  again.  The  list  of  murders  runs  all  through 
the  summer.  A  young  Free  Soil  Kentuckian  named  Hopkins 
was  deliberately  killed  in  Lawrence  on  June  16  by  a  deputy 
sheriff  named  Haine,  or  Haynau,  a  notorious  bully."  William 
Gay,  an  Indian  Agent,  was  murdered  two  miles  from  West- 
port,  on  June  21,  by  three  strangers,  who  blazed  away  at  him 
as  soon  as  they  discovered,  after  drinking  with  him,  that  he 
was  from  Michigan. ^^  Laben  Parker  was  shot,  stabbed  and 
hanged,  his  dangling  body  being  found  July  24,  eleven  miles 
from  Tecumseh,  with  this  placard  upon  it:  "Let  all  those 
who  are  going  to  vote  against  slavery  take  warning  \"  "  Major 
David  S.  Hoyt,  formerly  of  Deerfield,  Massachusetts,  was 
killed  August  1 1 ,  on  his  return  to  Lawrence  from  the  Georgian 
camp  on  Washington  Creek,  which  he  had  entered  on  a  mis- 
sion of  peace.  A  corrosive  acid  was  thrown  upon  his  face,  and 
his  body,  half-buried,  was  torn  by  wild  beasts.  His  object 
had  been  to  ask  that  the  Georgians  join  the  people  of  Law- 
rence in  stopping  just  such  crimes.** 

But  the  worst  of  all  this  terrible  list  of  inhuman  outrages, 
the  one  that  infuriated  the  Free  State  men  beyond  all  else, 
was  the  killing,  on  August  17,  of  William  Hoppe,  a  brother- 
in-law  of  the  Rev.  Ephraim  Nute,  the  Unitarian  minister  of 
Lawrence.  Hoppe  was  shot  in  his  buggy,  when  within  two 
miles  of  Leavenworth,  by  a  follower  of  General  Atchison, 
named  Fugit  or  Fugert.*^  This  wretch  had  made  a  bet  of  six 
dollars  to  a  pair  of  boots  that  he  would  go  out  and  return 
with  the  scalp  of  an  Abolitionist  within  two  hours.  He  asked 
but  one  question  of  his  victim.  When  Hoppe  replied  that  he 
was  from  Lawrence,  Fugit  shot  him  and  scalped  him,  with 
an  Indian's  dexterity,  without  waiting  even  to  ascertain  if 
Hoppe  was  dead.  Brandishing  the  bloody  scalp,  Fugit  rode 
back  and  received  his  boots.  In  May,  1857,  he  was  arrested 
at  Leavenworth  and  acquitted  of  the  charge  of  murder!  For 
downright  atrocities  committed  on  individuals,  the  pro-slavery 
men  were  infinitely  worse  than  the  Free  State,  even  remem- 
bering the  Pottawatomie  killings. 

There  were,  however,  plenty  of  Free  State  guerrillas  at 
work.   Charles  Lenhart  and  John  E.  Cook  (who  later  perished 


2i6  JOHN  BROWN 

on  the  scaffold  at  Charlestown)  were  members  of  a  well- 
mounted  body  of  "cavalry  scouts"  of  about  twenty  young 
men  who  ranged  about  the  country.^"  The  stealing  of  cattle 
and  horses  went  on  fearlessly  on  both  sides. ' '  "  The  substance 
of  the  Territory  is  devoured  by  the  roving,  roystering  bands 
of  guerrilla  fighters  who,  under  the  plea  that  war  prevails,  per- 
petrate deeds  of  robbery,  rapine,  slaughter  and  pillage  that 
nothing  can  justify,"  reported  the  St.  Louis  Evening  News 
early  in  June.  It  added  that  the  "body  of  good  citizens,  once 
numerous  in  the  Territory,  who  sided  with  neither  party, 
but  attended  to  their  own  affairs,  regardless  of  the  issue  of 
the  dispute,  is  not  now  to  be  found.  Every  man  has  been 
compelled  to  join  one  party  or  the  other,  and  to  become  active 
in  its  behalf."  This  referred,  of  course,  both  to  the  Free  Soil- 
ers  and  to  the  non-slaveholding  pro-slavery  men  who  wished 
to  mind  their  own  business.  "All  over  the  Territory,"  the 
Evening  News  truthfully  said,  "along  the  roadside,  houses 
are  deserted  and  farms  abandoned,  and  nowhere  are  there 
visible  evidences  of  industry."  ^^  The  Boonsville,  Missouri, 
Observer  was  of  the  opinion  that  ' '  unless  the  United  States 
Government  rigorously  interposes  its  authority  in  behalf  of 
peace  and  order,  the  horrors  of  civil  war  will  rage  on,  and 
we  fear  accumulate  to  such  an  extent  as  to  imperil  the 
Union.  "53 

The  pro-slavery  circular  of  June  21,  signed  by  Atchison, 
Buford  and  Stringfellow,  presented  the  Southern  view  of  the 
situation  thus: 

"The  [Pottawatomie]  outrages  above  specified  were  preceded, 
and  up  to  the  present  time  have  been  followed  by  others  of  a  like 
character,  and  dictated  by  a  like  settled  policy  on  the  part  of  our 
enemies  to  harrass  and  frighten  by  their  deeds  of  horror,  our  friends 
from  their  homes  in  the  Territory.  Undoubtedly  this  policy  (a  well 
settled  party  system)  has  dictated  the  notices  lately  given  in  all 
the  disturbed  districts,  by  armed  marauding  bands  of  abolition- 
ists, to  the  law  and  order  men  of  their  respective  neighborhoods, 
immediately  to  leave  the  country  on  peril  of  death.  Under  such 
notices,  our  friends  about  Hickory  Point  and  on  Pottowatomie  and 
Rock  Creeks,  have  all  been  driven  out  of  the  Territory,  their  stores 
have  been  robbed,  their  cattle  driven  off,  their  houses  burned,  their 
horses  stolen,  and  in  some  cases  they  have  been  assassinated  for 
daring  to  return.  Some,  too,  of  these  outrages,  have  been  perpe- 
trated under  the  very  nose  of  the  United  States  troops,  who  all  the 


CLOSE  QUARTERS  AT  BLACK  JACK        217 

while  assure  us  that  all  is  peace  and  quietness,  and  that  they  will 
afford  ample  protection,  without  the  necessity  of  our  banding  to- 
gether in  armed  bodies  for  mutual  defence."  ^* 

This  pro-slavery  criticism  of  the  United  States  troops  is  the 
more  interesting  because  the  Free  Soil  writers  of  the  period 
also  assail  the  regulars  and  accuse  them  of  sympathizing 
with  and  abetting  Border  Ruffian  outrages,  while  admitting 
that  Colonel  Sumner's  and  Major  Sedgwick's  leanings  were 
toward  the  North.  The  latter  fact  probably  had  something 
to  do  with  Colonel  Sumner's  going  on  leave  on  July  15,  in  the 
midst  of  the  troubles,  and  his  turning  over  the  command  to 
Brigadier-General  Persifor  F.  Smith,  who  did  not,  however, 
take  the  field  in  person.  Colonel  Sumner's  disrepute  with  the 
pro-slavery  Pierce  administration  is  very  plain.  In  his  annual 
report  for  1856,  Jefferson  Davis  pointedly  praised  Lieut.- 
Col.  Cooke  and  avoided  all  mention  of  Colonel  Sumner, 
beyond  printing  his  (Davis's)  censures  of  Colonel  Sumner  for 
having  dispersed  by  force  the  Topeka  Free  State  Legislature, 
in  harmony  with  the  proclamation  of  acting  Governor  Wood- 
son," and  positive  instructions  from  Governor  Shannon  to 
use  force  if  necessary.  ^^  Colonel  Sumner  did  not  again  fig- 
ure prominently  in  the  Kansas  troubles.  If  Pierce  desired  a 
scapegoat  for  the  Kansas  lawlessness.  Colonel  Sumner  was 
the  natural  victim.  It  must  be  pointed  out,  however,  that 
Colonel  Sumner's  and  Lieut.-Col.  Cooke's  regiments  would 
not  have  been  large  enough  to  patrol  successfully  all  of  east- 
ern Kansas,  had  they  been  of  full  strength.  General  Smith 
reported  officially  on  August  22,  that  "Colonel  Sumner's 
regiment  cannot  now  muster  four  hundred  men,  including 
Captain  Stewart's  company,  on  its  way  to  Fort  Laramie,  and 
a  detachment  under  Lieutenant  Wharton,  en  route  for  Fort 
Kearney  with  the  Sioux  prisoners.  Lieut.-Col.  Cooke's  six 
companies  have  a  little  more  than  one  hundred  horses."  " 

The  breaking  up  of  the  Topeka  or  Free  State  Legislature 
Colonel  Sumner  declared  to  be  the  most  trying  episode  of  his 
long  military  career.  ^^  Governor  Shannon  wrote  to  Colonel 
Sumner  on  June  23,^5  that  he  was  compelled  to  leave  the  Ter- 
ritory for  ten  days,  and  that  he  wished  him  to  use  his  com- 
mand in  the  most  effective  way  for  preserving  peace,  and  to 
be  sure  to  have  two  companies  at  Topeka  on  July  4.  Shannon 


2i8  JOHN  BROWN 

wrote  also  of  his  belief  that  if  the  Free  State  Legislature  as- 
sembled on  that  date,  it 

"would  produce  an  outbreak  more  fearful  by  far  in  its  conse- 
quences than  any  which  we  have  heretofore  witnessed.  .  .  .  Two 
governments  cannot  exist  at  one  and  the  same  time  in  this  Terri- 
tory in  practical  operation;  one  or  the  other  must  be  overthrown; 
and  the  struggle  between  the  legal  government  established  by  Con- 
gress and  that  by  the  Topeka  Constitution  would  result  in  a  civil 
war,  the  fearful  consequences  of  which  no  one  can  foresee.  Should 
this  body  reassemble  and  enact  laws  (and  they  can  have  no  other 
object  in  meeting),  they  will  be  an  illegal  body,  threatening  the 
peace  of  the  whole  country  and  therefore  should  be  dispersed." 

This  view  Colonel  Sumner  shared,  for  he  wrote  to  acting 
Governor  Woodson  on  June  28,  "  I  am  decidedly  of  the  opin- 
ion that  that  body  of  men  ought  not  to  be  permitted  to  assem- 
ble. It  is  not  too  much  to  say  that  the  peace  of  the  country 
depends  upon  it."  Mr.  Woodson  then  issued  his  proclama- 
tion of  July  4,  forbidding  all  persons  "claiming  legislative 
powers  and  authorities  .  .  .  from  assembling,  organizing 
or  attempting  to  organize  or  act  in  any  legislative  capacity 
whatever.  ..."  To  this  Colonel  Sumner  added  over  his 
own  name  these  words:  "The  proclamation  of  the  President 
and  the  order  under  it  require  me  to  sustain  the  Executive 
of  the  Territory  in  executing  the  laws  and  preserving  the 
peace.  I  therefore  hereby  announce  that  I  shall  maintain  the 
proclamation  at  all  hazards." 

Colonel  Sumner  had  been  so  completely  under  the  orders 
of  Governor  Shannon  that  he  believed  himself  wholly  justified 
in  carrying  out  Shannon's  and  Woodson's  instructions,  the 
latter  being  with  him  on  July  4,  and  directing  him  by  word 
of  mouth.  Moreover,  Jefferson  Davis,  who  had  praised  Colo- 
nel Sumner  on  May  23,  for  his  zeal,  had  assured  him  in  the 
same  letter  that  it  was  his  duty  to  maintain  "the  duly  au- 
thorized government  of  the  Territory,"  and  added  that  "for 
the  great  purpose  which  justifies  the  employment  of  military 
force,  it  matters  not  whether  the  subversion  of  the  law  arises 
from  a  denial  of  the  existence  of  the  government  "  or  from  law- 
less disregard  of  the  rights  of  persons  or  property.  The  Topeka 
Legislature  was  surely  in  itself  a  "denial  of  the  existence 
of  the  government,"  but  after  the  dispersal  of  the  Topeka 


CLOSE  QUARTERS  AT  BLACK  JACK        219 

Legislature,  Secretary  Davis  took,  on  August  27,  the  view 
that  Colonel  Sumner  had  exceeded  his  instructions,  and  disa- 
vowed the  dispersal  of  the  Legislature.  To  this  rebuke  Colonel 
Sumner  respectfully  replied  that  he  felt  bound  to  consider 
the  Topeka  Legislature  insurrectionary,  under  the  President's 
proclamation  of  February  11,  and,  therefore,  was  compelled 
to  suppress  it,  particularly  because,  as  he  pointed  out,  the 
principal  officers  of  the  Topeka  government  were  at  that 
moment  actually  under  arrest  for  high  treason. 

But  if  the  logic  was  on  Colonel  Sumner's  side,  the  authority 
was  on  Jefferson  Davis's;  a  scapegoat  was  wanted,  and  the 
veteran  of  thirty-seven  years'  service  was  at  hand.  Not  un- 
naturally it  was  believed  by  the  Free  Soil  men  that  Colonel 
Sumner's  expressions  of  regret  in  disbanding  the  Legislature, 
and  his  friendliness  for  the  North,  were  the  real  reasons  for 
his  being  given  leave,  and  for  the  censure  passed  upon  him. 
A  year  later,  a  new  Secretary  of  War  was  glad  to  entrust  to 
Sumner  the  command  of  an  important  and  successful  cam- 
paign against  the  Cheyenne  Indians. 

The  actual  dispersal  of  the  Legislature  was  dramatic.  In 
the  absence  of  the  Speaker  and  the  Chief  Clerk,  Samuel  F. 
Tappan,  the  Assistant  Clerk,  called  the  roll  in  the  House  of 
Representatives  on  July  4,  to  which  date  the  Legislature  had 
adjourned  on  March  4.  Seventeen  members  answered  to  their 
names.  As  Tappan  knew  there  were  others  in  the  town,  he 
ordered  the  sergeant-at-arms  to  summon  the  rest.  Colonel 
Sumner  then  rose  and  said: 

"Gentlemen:  This  is  the  most  disagreeable  duty  of  my  whole 
life.  My  orders  are  to  disperse  the  Legislature,  and  I  am  here  to 
tell  you  that  it  must  not  meet,  and  to  see  it  dispersed.  God  knows 
I  have  no  partisan  feelings  in  the  matter,  and  I  will  have  none  so 
long  as  I  hold  my  present  position  in  Kansas.  I  have  just  returned 
from  the  border,  where  I  have  been  driving  out  bands  of  Missou- 
rians,  and  now  I  am  ordered  here  to  disperse  you.  You  must  dis- 
perse. This  body  cannot  be  permitted  to  meet  —  Disperse.  Let 
me  again  assure  you  that  this  is  the  most  disagreeable  duty  of  my 
whole  life." »" 

He  had  taken  ample  military  precautions,  for  he  had  con- 
centrated at  Topeka,  on  July  3.  five  companies  of  his  regiment 
and  two  pieces  of  artillery.    The  proclamation  of  the  acting 


220  JOHN  BROWN 

Governor  was  first  read  to  the  crowd  of  about  five  hundred 
men,  but  Colonel  Sumner's  hope  that  this  would  suffice  to  pre- 
vent the  meeting  of  the  Legislature  was  vain ;  he  was  forced  to 
march  his  command  into  town,  draw  it  up  before  the  building 
in  which  the  Legislature  was  meeting,  and  array  it  in  the  face 
of  several  Free  State  volunteer  companies.  These  military 
manoeuvres  deeply  impressed  the  crowd,  for  Colonel  Sumner's 
bearing,  like  that  of  his  men,  was  eminently  businesslike  and 
soldierly. 

As  Colonel  Sumner  rode  away,  so  the  Philadelphia  North 
American'' s  correspondent  reported, 

"some  one  gave  'three  cheers  for  Col.  Sumner,'  which  was  re- 
sponded to.  Then  there  were  three  hearty  cheers  for  John  C.  Fre- 
mont, three  cheers  for  the  Constitution  and  State  Legislature,  and 
just  as  the  dragoons  got  the  word  of  command,  'march,'  three 
groans  were  given  for  Franklin  Pierce,  and  the  retreating  squadron 
of  dragoons  moved  off  amid  the  deep  groaning  for  the  President." 

During  all  these  exciting  Topeka  happenings,  John  Brown 
was  not  far  away.  He  had  remained  in  hiding  on  Ottawa 
Creek,  near  Palmyra,  throughout  June,  awaiting  the  recovery 
of  his  sick  and  wounded  sons,  and  gradually  recruiting  his 
band."  Henry  Thompson,  in  addition  to  his  wound,  suffered 
from  bilious  fever,  and  Owen  Brown  was  also  a  fever  victim. 
The  invalid's  chief  nurse  was  Lucius  Mills,  a  cousin,  and  John 
Brown  looked  in  upon  them  from  time  to  time,  and  aided  when 
the  country  was  clear  of  Border  Ruffians  and  troops.  Food 
they  gathered  where  possible,  the  Carpenters,  Ottawa  Jones 
and  other  neighbors  helping.  Not  until  the  beginning  of  July 
did  John  Brown  terminate  this  life  in  the  bush  and  again 
become  active.  On  July  2  he  boldly  entered  Lawrence  and 
called  upon  the  Tribune's  correspondent,  William  A.  Phil- 
lips. To  him  Brown  stated  that  he  was  on  his  way  to  Topeka 
with  his  followers,  to  be  on  hand  at  whatever  crisis  might 
arise  at  the  opening  of  the  Legislature.  "He  was  not  in  the 
habit,"  Colonel  Phillips  records,  "of  subjecting  himself  to  the 
orders  of  anybody.  He  intended  to  aid  the  general  result,  but 
to  do  it  in  his  own  way."  That  evening  Phillips  started  with 
John  Brown's  company,  toward  Topeka.  They  camped  in  the 
open,  a  mile  southwest  of  Big  Springs.  At  two  o'clock  A.  M. 


CLOSE  QUARTERS  AT  BLACK  JACK        221 

on  the  3d,  they  resumed  the  march,  straight  across  country, 
regardless  of  streams  and  rough  going.  At  sunrise  they  reached 
the  Shunga-nung,  heard  Colonel  Sumner's  camp  bugles,  and 
John  Brown  halted  in  the  timber  by  the  creek,  one  of  the  men 
going  with  Phillips  into  town  to  bring  back  word  when  the 
company  should  be  needed.  "He  [Brown]  sent  messages  to 
one  or  two  of  the  gentlemen  in  town,  and,  as  he  wrung  my 
hand  at  parting,  urged  that  we  should  have  the  Legislature 
meet  and  resist  all  who  should  interfere  with  it,  and  fight,  if 
necessary,  even  the  United  States  troops." 

Colonel  PhilHps  has  left,  in  the  Atlantic  Monthly  for  De- 
cember, 1879,  a  charming  picture  of  that  night  ride  and  the 
conversation  he  had  with  Brown  as  they  lay  "bivouacking  in 
the  open  beneath  the  stars:" 

"He  seemed  to  be  as  little  disposed  to  sleep  as  I  was,  and  we 
talked;  or  rather  he  did,  for  I  said  little.  I  found  that  he  was  a 
thorough  astronomer;  he  pointed  out  the  different  constellations 
and  their  movements.  '  Now,'  he  said, ' it  is  midnight,'  as  he  pointed 
to  the  finger  marks  of  his  great  clock  in  the  sky.  The  whispering  of 
the  wind  on  the  prairie  was  full  of  voices  to  him,  and  the  stars  as 
they  shone  in  the  firmament  of  God  seemed  to  inspire  him.  '  How 
admirable  is  the  symmetry  of  the  heavens ;  how  grand  and  beau- 
tiful! Everything  moves  in  sublime  harmony  in  the  government 
of  God.  Not  so  with  us  poor  creatures.  If  one  star  is  more  brilliant 
than  others,  it  is  continually  shooting  in  some  erratic  way  into 
space.' 

"He  criticized  both  parties  in  Kansas.  Of  the  proslavery  men 
he  said  that  slavery  besotted  everything,  and  made  men  more  brutal 
and  coarse ;  nor  did  the  Free-State  men  escape  his  sharp  censure. 
He  said  that  we  had  many  noble  and  true  men,  but  too  many 
broken-down  politicians  from  the  older  States,  who  would  rather 
pass  resolutions  than  act,  and  who  criticized  all  who  did  real  work. 
A  professional  politician,  he  went  on,  you  never  could  trust;  for 
even  if  he  had  convictions,  he  was  always  ready  to  sacrifice  his 
principles  for  his  advantage.  One  of  the  most  interesting  things 
in  his  conversation  that  night,  and  one  that  marked  him  as  a  theo- 
rist, was  his  treatment  of  our  forms  of  social  and  political  life.  He 
thought  society  ought  to  be  organized  on  a  less  selfish  basis;  for 
while  material  interests  gained  something  by  the  deification  of  pure 
selfishness,  men  and  women  lost  much  by  it.  He  said  that  all  great 
reforms,  like  the  Christian  religion,  were  based  on  broad  generous, 
self-sacrificing  principles.  He  condemned  the  sale  of  land  as  a  chat- 
tel and  thought  that  there  was  an  infinite  number  of  wrongs  to  right 
before  society  would  be  what  it  should  be,  but  that  in  our  country 


222  JOHN  BROWN 

slavery  was  the  'sum  of  all  villainies,'  and  its  abolition  the  first 
essential  work.  If  the  American  people  did  not  take  courage  and 
end  it  speedily,  human  freedom  and  republican  liberty  would  soon 
be  empty  names  in  these  United  States." 

How  long  John  Brown  remained  at  the  Willets  farm  near 
Topeka,  to  which  he  now  proceeded,  and  where  he  spent  the 
next  two  or  three  weeks,  is  not  known.  He  neither  entered 
Topeka  on  the  fateful  July  4,  nor  immediately  thereafter.  It 
is  probable  that  he  returned  promptly  to  the  neighborhood  of 
his  sick  sons,  more  than  ever  disgusted  with  Free  State  leaders 
and  their  inability  to  adopt  his  view  that  the  way  to  fight  was 
to  "press  to  close  quarters.  "^^  On  July  26,  John  Brown,  Jr., 
wrote  from  his  Leavenworth  prison  to  his  father : 

"Am  very  glad  that  you  have  started  as  all  things  considered  I 
am  convinced  you  can  be  of  more  use  where  you  contemplate  going 
than  here.  My  anxiety  for  your  safe  journey  is  very  great.  Hope 
that  I  shall  yet  see  you  all  again.  Where  I  shall  go,  if  I  get  through 
this  is  more  than  I  can  tell,  of  one  thing  I  feel  sure  now,  and  that 
is  that  I  shall  leave  Kansas.  I  must  get  away  from  exciting  scenes 
to  some  secluded  region,  or  my  life  will  be  a  failure.  .  .  .  The  treat- 
ment I  have  received  from  the  Free  State  party  has  wearied  me  of 
any  further  desire  to  cooperate  with  them.  They,  as  a  party,  are 
guided  by  no  principle  but  selfishness,  and  are  withal  most  arrant 
cowards  —  they  deserve  their  fate.  .  .  .""' 

Four  days  later,  John  Brown,  Jr.,  wrote  to  Jason  Brown 
that  his  father  and  his  party  were  at  Topeka  ' '  a  few  days  ago 
on  their  way  to  the  States.  They  were  supplied  at  Topeka  with 
provisions  for  the  trip  and  by  this  time  I  hope  they  have  passed 
without  the  limits  of  the  Territory.""  The  party  comprised 
Owen,  Oliver,  Frederick  and  Salmon  Brown,  and  their  father, 
Henry  Thompson,  and  Lucius  Mills,  for  whom  John  Brown 
had  little  regard  because  he  had  no  desire  to  fight  and  was  con- 
tent to  play  the  nurse  and  doctor.  Salmon  Brown  states  that 
they  left  because  Lucius  Mills  insisted  on  the  invalids'  being 
moved,  and  because  they  were  a  drag  on  the  fighting  men.  In 
their  hot,  primitive  quarters,  in  which  the  flies  were  a  scourge, 
Owen  had  been  reduced  "almost  to  a  skeleton,"  and  Henry 
Thompson  was  not  much  better  off,  while  Salmon  himself  was 
still  a  cripple.  Henry  Thompson  affirms  that  he,  Oliver,  Owen 
and  Salmon  had  had  enough  of  Kansas.  They  did  not  wish  to 


CLOSE  QUARTERS  AT  BLACK  JACK        223 

fight  any  more.  They  felt  that  they  had  suffered  enough,  that 
the  service  they  had  been  called  upon  to  perform  at  Potta- 
watomie squared  them  with  Duty.  They  were,  they  thought, 
entitled  to  leave  further  work  to  other  hands.  They  were  sick 
of  fighting  and  trouble.  The  burden  of  Pottawatomie  did  not, 
however,  weigh  upon  Salmon ;  it  was  as  an  invalided  soldier 
that  he  consented  to  leave.  Jason  Brown  stayed  at  Osawatomie 
with  his  wife.  John  Brown  himself  never  expressed  an  opinion 
as  to  his  sons'  resolution  or  their  leaving  Kansas. 

A  heretofore  unrelated  incident  of  this  journey  is  now  set 
forth  by  Salmon  Brown.  Oliver  Brown,  a  great,  stout,  strap- 
ping fellow,  was  forbidden  by  his  father  to  give  to  Lucius  Mills 
a  fine  revolver.   Says  Salmon  Brown: 

"Oliver  wanted  to  make  him  a  present  of  a  revolver  that  he  [Oli- 
ver] had  captured  at  Black  Jack.  Father  objected;  forbade  Oliver 
to  give  Mills  the  pistol,  saying  that  Mills  would  never  use  it.  Oliver 
persisting.  Father  set  out  to  take  the  pistol  away  from  him  by  force. 
In  the  scuffle  that  ensued,  I,  alarmed  lest  the  weapon  might  be 
accidentally  discharged,  took  it  out  of  Oliver's  belt,  saying:  'Now 
you  fellows  fight  it  out!'  It  looked /oo^w/s,  to  me.  The  pistol  was 
Oliver's  pistol.  And  the  match  was  not  an  equal  one.  Father  had 
been  a  strong  man  in  his  day,  but  his  prime  was  past.  Oliver  was 
a  splendid  wrestler.  Up  in  North  Elba,  he  had  thrown  thirty  lum- 
bermen one  day,  one  after  the  other,  in  a  big  'wrastle.'  Father  was 
like  a  child  in  his  hands.  And  Oliver  was  determined.  He  grabbed 
Father  by  the  arms  and  jammed  him  against  the  wagon.  'Let  go 
of  me!'  said  Father.  'Not  till  you  agree  to  behave  yourself,'  said 
OUver.   And  Father  had  to  let  him  have  his  way."°^ 

On  August  3  and  4,  John  Brown  and  those  with  him  were 
overtaken  by  a  party  of  Free  State  men  who  were  marching 
north  to  the  Nebraska  line,  to  meet  James  H.  Lane's  Free 
State  caravan  and  to  protect  it  from  the  merciless  Kickapoo 
Rangers,  the  murderers  of  Captain  R.  P.  Brown.  One  of  these 
volunteer  guards,  Samuel  J.  Reader,  still  a  resident  of  Kansas, 
has  transcribed  from  his  journal  the  following  impressions  of 
his  meeting  with  John  Brown : «« 

"Between  three  and  four  o'clock  we  formed  in  marching  column, 
and  started  forward  at  a  swinging  pace.  We  were  all  well  rested, 
and  a  little  tired  of  staying  in  camp.  We  had  been  on  the  road 
perhaps  an  hour  or  more  when  someone  in  front  shouted,  'There 
he  is!'   Sure  enough,  it  was  Brown.   Just  ahead  of  us  we  saw  the 


224  JOHN  BROWN 

dingy  old  wagon-cover,  and  the  two  men,  and  the  oxen,  plodding 
slowly  onward.  Our  step  was  increased  to  'quick  time;'  and  as  we 
passed  the  old  man,  on  either  side  of  the  road,  we  rent  the  air  with 
cheers.  If  John  Brown  ever  delighted  in  the  praises  of  men,  his 
pleasure  must  have  been  gratified,  as  he  walked  along,  enveloped 
in  our  shouting  column.  But  I  fear  he  looked  upon  such  things  as 
vainglorious,  for  if  he  responded  by  word  or  act,  I  failed  to  hear 
it  or  see  it.  In  passing  I  looked  at  him  closely.  He  was  rather  tall, 
and  lean,  with  a  tanned,  weather-beaten  aspect  in  general.  He 
looked  like  a  rough,  hard-working  old  farmer;  and  I  had  known  sev- 
eral such  who  pretty  closely  resembled  Brown  in  many  respects. 
He  appeared  to  be  unarmed ;  but  very  likely  had  shooting  irons 
inside  the  wagon.  His  face  was  shaven,  and  he  wore  a  cotton  shirt, 
partly  covered  by  a  vest.  His  hat  was  well  worn,  and  his  general 
appearance,  dilapidated,  dusty  and  soiled.  He  turned  from  his  ox 
team  and  glanced  at  our  party  from  time  to  time  as  we  were  pass- 
ing him.  No  doubt  it  was  a  pleasing  sight  to  him  to  see  men  in 
armed  opposition  to  the  Slave  Power." 

Mr.  Reader,  on  this  expedition,  on  August  7,  was  an  eye- 
witness of  the  first  meeting  between  John  Brown  and  a 
remarkable  man  who  subsequently  became  one  of  Brown's 
most  trusted  lieutenants,  Aaron  Dwight  Stevens,  who  at  that 
time  went  by  the  name  of  Captain  Whipple,  for  the  good  rea- 
son that  he  had  escaped  from  the  military  prison  at  Fort 
Leavenworth  while  serving  a  three  years'  sentence  for  taking 
part  in  a  soldiers'  mutiny  at  Don  Fernandez  de  Taos,  New 
Mexico,  and  resisting  the  authority  of  an  officer  of  his  regi- 
ment. Major  G.  A.  H.  Blake,  of  the  First  Dragoons."* 

John  Brown  himself  did  not  set  foot  in  Iowa,  but  turned 
back  at  Nebraska  City,  on  the  Nebraska  boundary,  his  invalids 
then  being  quite  safe.*^  "Frederick  turned  and  went  back 
with  his  father,"  Henry  Thompson  testifies.  "Frederick  felt 
that  Pottawatomie  bound  him  to  Kansas.  He  did  not  wish 
to  leave.  He  felt  that  a  great  crime  had  been  committed,  and 
that  he  should  go  back  into  Kansas  and  live  it  out."  It  was 
a  decision  that  cost  him  his  life. 

*  A  myth  that  this  officer  was  Captain  James  Longstreet,  later  the  famous 
Confederate  Lieutenant-General,  persists  in  lives  of  Brown  and  sketches  of  A.  D. 
Stevens.  Captain  Longstreet,  at  the  time  of  Stevens's  trial,  was  on  duty  with  his 
regiment,  the  Eighth  Infantry,  in  Texas,  and  does  not  figure  in  the  court-martial 


CHAPTER  VII 

THE  FOE  IN  THE  FIELD 

At  Nebraska  City,  John  Brown  found  a  notable  caravan. 
Under  the  erratic  James  Henry  Lane,  there  had  arrivedat  that 
point  a  body  of  several  hundred  Free  State  emigrants,  many 
of  whom  had  attempted  to  reach  Kansas  by  the  usual  route  of 
the  Missouri  River,  only  to  learn  that  the  chivalric  Missouri- 
ans  had  barred  that  means  of  entrance.  As  early  as  June  20, 
1856,  a  party  of  seventy-five  men  from  Chicago,  understood 
to  be  the  vanguard  of  the  "ai-my  of  the  North"  which  Lane 
had  been  raising  in  Chicago  and  elsewhere,  was  forced  to  give 
up  its  arms  on  the  steamer  Star  of  the  West,  at  Lecompton, 
Missouri,  by  a  mob  of  Missourians  headed  by  Colonel  Joseph 
Shelby,  later  a  prominent  Confederate  brigadier.  At  Kansas 
City,  General  Atchison,  with  another  armed  force,  compelled 
the  Northerners  to  stay  on  their  boat  and  return  to  Illi- 
nois, an  achievement  about  which  the  Border  Ruffian  press 
boasted  loudly  and  long.  ^  Thereafter  parties  of  Northerners, 
on  the  steamers  Sultan  and  Arabia  and  other  river-craft, 
were  similarly  driven  back,  some  even  being  robbed  of  their 
possessions.^  By  the  4th  of  July,  the  blockade  of  the  river  was 
complete ;  thereafter  the  Free  State  reinforcements  were  com- 
pelled to  take  the  tedious  and  expensive  overland  trip  from 
Iowa  City,  which  was  in  railroad  communication  with  Chi- 
cago, to  Nebraska  City,  and  thence  southward  through  Ne- 
braska to  Kansas.  This  route  was  opened  by  Lane,  whose 
party  finally  comprised  one  hundred  and  twenty-five  well- 
armed  single  men,  and  is  said  by  most  writers  to  have  num- 
bered, all  told,  six  hundred  men,  women  and  children  when  he 
reached  the  Kansas  line.  There  General  Lane  found  it  desir- 
able to  assume  the  name  of  "General  Joe  Cook."  While  in  the 
East,  General  Lane  had  made  a  sensation  by  a  most  eloquent 
speech  in  behalf  of  Kansas,  delivered  at  Chicago  on  the  31st 
of  May,  1856.3  He  made  full  use  of  the  sacking  of  Lawrence 
and  of  the  pro-slavery  outrages  in  the  Territory,  and  it  was  in 


226  JOHN  BROWN 

large  part  to  his  eloquence  that  much  of  the  heavy  emigra- 
tion to  Kansas  in  the  summer  and  fall  of  1856  was  due.  How 
great  his  oratorical  powers  were  may  be  seen  from  a  letter 
of  Thomas  Wentworth  Higginson,  of  September  18,  1856, 
now  preserved  in  the  collections  of  the  Kansas  Historical  So- 
ciety : 

"Last  night  he  [Lane]  spoke  in  a  school  house;  never  did  I  hear 
such  a  speech ;  every  sentence  like  a  pistol  bullet ;  such  delicacy  and 
lightness  of  touch;  such  natural  art;  such  perfect  adaptation;  not 
a  word,  not  a  gesture,  could  have  been  altered;  he  had  every  nerve 
in  his  audience  at  the  end  of  his  muscles ;  not  a  man  in  the  United 
States  could  have  done  it ;  and  the  perfect  ease  of  it  all,  not  a  glimpse 
of  premeditation  or  effort ;  and  yet  he  has  slept  in  his  boots  every 
night  but  two  for  five  weeks." 

The  opening  of  the  presidential  campaign  between  Fremont 
and  Buchanan,  as  well  as  the  events  in  the  Territory,  kept 
Kansas  in  the  forefront  of  national  politics.  The  first  Repub- 
lican National  Convention  resolved,  on  June  17,  that  "Kansas 
should  be  immediately  admitted  as  a  state  of  the  Union 
with  her  present  free  constitution."  *  The  majority  of  the 
Howard  Committee  submitted  its  report  on  July  I,  with  much 
resultant  Congressional  discussion  of  the  Kansas  situation,  and 
Oliver,  the  minority  of  the  committee,  followed  suit  on  July  II 
with  his  report  containing  the  evidence  in  regard  to  the  Pot- 
tawatomie massacre.  Even  then,  curiously  enough,  the  Potta- 
watomie affair  did  not  in  any  degree  injure  the  Free  State 
cause  in  the  North. ^  Oliver  himself  used  it  in  a  speech  on 
July  31,^  and  Toombs,  of  Georgia,  also  made  a  passing  refer- 
ence to  it ; '  but  no  one  else  in  Congress.  The  Democrats  con- 
tinued to  base  most  of  their  criticisms  upon  the  general  policy 
of  the  Free  State  settlers  in  taking  Sharp's  rifles  with  them 
to  Kansas.  The  Elections  Committee  of  the  House  reported 
against  the  admission  of  Whitfield  as  a  delegate  and  in  favor 
of  Reeder;  the  House  on  August  i  voted  against  Whitfield 
by  no  to  92,  and  against  Reeder  by  113  to  88,  and  thus 
neither  was  given  a  seat.^  There  were  various  attempts  to 
legislate  during  the  summer.  On  June  25,  Congressman  Grow, 
of  Pennsylvania,  presented  a  bill  in  the  House  for  the  admis- 
sion of  Kansas  under  the  Tokepa  Constitution,  and  the  House 
passed  it  by  99  to  97  on  the  day  before  Colonel  Sumner  dis- 


THE  FOE  IN  THE  FIELD  227 

persed  the  Topeka  Legislature.'  On  July  2  the  Senate  had 
passed  by  33  to  12  votes  the  Toombs  bill,  which  had  been 
reported  by  Senator  Douglas  from  the  Committee  on  Terri- 
tories, in  a  form  which  betrayed  clearly  the  alarm  of  the  slave- 
power  over  the  injury  done  its  cause  by  the  excesses  of  its 
agents  in  Kansas.  The  Toombs  bill  provided  for  a  census  of 
all  white  males  over  twenty-one  years  of  age,  bona  fide  resi- 
dents of  the  Territory.  Those  who  were  thus  counted  were  to 
be  allowed  to  vote  on  November  i  for  delegates  to  a  Constitu- 
tional convention,  and  due  precautions  were  taken  in  the  bill 
to  guard  against  fraud,  intimidation  and  election  irregularities. 

But  neither  house  of  Congress  would  agree  to  the  other's 
bills,  and  the  final  adjournment  came  without  any  definite 
legislation  for  the  relief  of  Kansas.  The  House  endeavored  to 
embarrass  the  President  by  attaching  to  two  appropriation 
bills  riders  in  the  interest  of  the  Free  State  settlers.  One  of 
these  was  soon  dropped,  but  the  other,  attached  to  the  Army 
Appropriation  bill  by  John  Sherman,  practically  forbade  the 
President  to  use  the  troops  for  the  purpose  of  sustaining  the 
bogus  Kansas  Legislature.  As  a  result,  the  Army  Appro- 
priation bill  failed.  When  Congress  adjourned  on  August 
18,  a  special  session  was  called  by  the  President.  It  met  on 
August  2 1 ,  and  on  August  30  the  Army  Appropriation  bill  was 
passed  without  the  Kansas  amendment  by  a  majority  of 
three  votes,  i" 

More  important  for  Kansas,  during  this  period,  was  the 
organization  at  Buffalo  of  the  National  Kansas  Committee, 
with  Thaddeus  Hyatt,  of  New  York  city,  as  president,  in  the 
second  week  in  July.  In  the  six  months  of  its  existence  this 
National  Kansas  Committee  forwarded  two  thousand  emi- 
grants by  way  of  the  land  route  of  Iowa  and  Nebraska,  and 
received  more  than  eighty-five  thousand  dollars  in  cash, 
besides  gifts  of  clothing  aggregating  more  than  one  hundred 
and  ten  thousand  dollars."  By  January  25,  1857,  the  condi- 
tions in  Kansas  had  so  improved,  from  the  Free  State  point 
of  view,  as  to  make  further  activity  on  the  part  of  the  Na- 
tional Committee  unnecessary.  This  record  of  its  Chicago 
headquarters  is,  of  course,  wholly  distinct  from  the  even  more 
remarkable  record  of  the  New  England  Emigration  Society 
and  the  Massachusetts  State  Kansas  Committee. 


228  JOHN  BROWN 

John  Brown  made  but  a  short  stay  at  Nebraska  City.  He 
took  leave  of  his  invalids,  obtained  horses  for  himself  and  his 
son,  and  joined  a  party  of  thirty  men  headed  by  Captain  Sam- 
uel Walker,  and  General  Lane,  upon  whose  shoulders  from 
now  on  rested  the  practical  direction  of  the  Free  State  cause 
in  Kansas,  until  the  release,  in  September,  of  the  leaders  in 
prison  at  Leavenworth.  As  Captain  Walker  had  received 
a  message  urging  him  to  return  to  Lawrence  at  once,  Lane 
decided  that  they  should  push  on  to  that  town,  one  hundred 
and  fifty  miles  distant,  as  fast  as  humanly  possible.  He  rode 
into  Lawrence  alone,  thirty  hours  later,  arriving  at  three  A.  m. 
of  the  morning  of  August  1 1 ,  all  of  his  companions  having 
dropped  by  the  wayside.  ^^  Captain  Walker  rode  nearly  to 
Lawrence,  but  John  Brown  stopped  off  at  Topeka  with  about 
one  hundred  and  twenty  miles  to  his  credit. 

As  to  his  intercourse  with  John  Brown  during  their  two  or 
three  days'  journey  to  Nebraska  City  and  their  rapid  return, 
Captain  Walker,  one  of  the  stoutest  of  the  Free  State  fighters, 
has  left  an  interesting  record  in  the  shape  of  a  curiously  illit- 
erate letter  of  February  8,  1875,  addressed  to  Judge  Han- 
way,  of  Lane.''  In  this  epistle  Walker  declares  his  belief  that 
John  Brown  was  insane  during  the  summer  of  1856.  Brown 
would  always  go  off  and  camp  by  himself.  One  morning, 
when  Walker  went  to  wake  him,  he  was  asleep,  leaning  against 
a  tree,  with  his  rifle  across  his  knees.  "  I  put  my  hand  on  his 
shoulder;  that  moment  he  was  on  his  feet,  his  rifle  at  my 
breast.  I  pushed  the  muzzle  up  and  the  ball  grazed  my  shoul- 
der. Thereafter,  I  never  approached  Brown  when  he  was 
sleeping,  as  it  seemed  to  be  his  most  wakeful  time."  As  they 
were  riding  together  on  the  day  of  this  incident.  Walker  re- 
ferred to  the  Pottawatomie  murders  and  frankly  told  Brown 
that  he  would  not  have  them  on  his  conscience  for  the  world. 
Brown  admitted  that  he  was  in  charge  of  the  murder  party 
and  ordered  the  executions,  but  averred  that  he  had  not 
raised  his  hand  against  any  one  man.  It  was  on  this  occa- 
sion, Captain  Walker  states,  that  Brown  charged  that  the 
responsibility  of  the  crime  rested  upon  Robinson  and  Lane 
as  instigators,  as  already  related.*  Walker  also  says  that  to 
oblige  Brown  he  took  a  message  to  John  Brown,  Jr.,  in  which 

*  See  page  184. 


THE  FOE  IN  THE  FIELD  229 

the  father  promised  to  effect  his  son's  rescue  on  a  certain 
night;  and  that  John  Brown,  Jr.,  repHed  that  he  wished  the 
senior  to  stay  away,  as  he  was  the  cause  of  the  son's  arrest. 
The  latter  did  not,  Walker  averred,  then  approve  of  his 
father's  acts,  and  wished  to  have  nothing  to  do  with  him  at 
that  time,  —  a  statement  absolutely  contradicted  by  the  son's 
letters  from  prison.* 

The  arrival  of  Lane  and  Brown  at  Lawrence,  to  which  place 
the  latter  soon  returned  from  Topeka,  despite  his  son's  ear- 
nest protest  that  he  should  not  expose  himself  on  any  account 
to  the  danger  of  arrest,  was  followed  by  aggressive  warfare 
on  the  part  of  Free  State  men.  On  August  5  the  Lawrence 
military  companies,  together  with  a  few  volunteers  from 
Osawatomie,  among  them  August  Bondi,  had  driven  out  the 
pro-slavery  settlement  at  New  Georgia,  on  the  Marais  des 
Cygnes,  not  far  from  Osawatomie.'*  Word  of  their  coming 
had  preceded  them,  and  the  Southern  colony  of  from  sixty  to 
seventy-five  persons  fled  as  the  Free  State  men,  at  whose  head 
rumor  placed  the  dread  John  Brown,  approached.  The  vic- 
tors burned  the  block-house  and  such  of  the  abandoned  pro- 
visions as  they  could  not  carry  away.  To  them  the  settlement 
was  a  nuisance;  its  inhabitants  were  charged  with  stealing 
horses,  killing  cows,  injuring  fences  and  being  drunk  in  the 
streets  of  Osawatomie.  '^  To  the  Southerners  this  was  a  wicked 
attack,  announcing  the  beginning  of  civil  war  upon  unarmed 
men  and  women,  whose  property  was  wantonly  destroyed 
or  stolen,  even  to  the  clothes  of  the  children.  To  the  arrival 
of  Lane's  army  the  outrage  was  attributed  in  a  bellicose 
proclamation  issued  at  Westport  on  August  16  by  Atchison 
and  B.  F.  Stringfellow. '^  It  is  an  interesting  fact  that,  if 
drunkenness  was  a  sin  in  Missourians,  it  did  not  prevent  the 
Captain,  Austin,  of  the  Osawatomie  company  from  com- 
pletely intoxicating  himself  on  the  road  to  this  bloodless 
battle." 

"Old  Capt.  Brown  can  now  be  raised  from  every  prairie 
and  thicket,"  wrote  Jason  Brown  to  his  sister  Ruth  on  Au- 
gust 13,  1856,18  after  hearing  the  pro-slavery  story  that  his 

*  "You  and  those  with  you  have  done  nobly  and  bravely,"  wrote  the  son 
to  his  father  on  August  13,  1856.— Original  letter^  in  possession  of  Mrs.  John 
Brown,  Jr.  '^~  ' 


230  JOHN  BROWN 

father  was  in  command  at  New  Georgia.  Atchison  and  String- 
fellow  placed  John  Brown  at  the  head  of  the  Free  Soil  men 
in  every  skirmish  and  raid  of  this  month."  The  New  York 
Times' s  correspondent  called  him  the  "terror  of  all  Mis- 
souri" and  the  "old  terrifier."  ^o  O.  C.  Brown,  of  Osawatomie, 
says,  "Old  John  Brown's  name  was  equal  to  an  army  with 
banners."  ^i  At  Paola,  seven  miles  from  Osawatomie,  a  pro- 
slavery  meeting  broke  up  in  the  greatest  haste  on  hearing 
that  John  Brown  was  coming  to  "take  out"  some  men;  and 
the  creek  over  which  the  invader  would  have  to  come  was 
heavily  guarded  all  night  by  the  frightened  citizens  of  Paola." 
Mary  Grant  records  that  once,  when  a  large  party  of  Mis- 
sourians  was  returning  to  its  State,  the  rear  ranks  called  out, 
by  way  of  joke,  "John  Brown  is  coming! "  whereupon  the  van 
cut  the  mules  from  their  traces  and  rode  for  their  lives.^'  It 
is  the  opinion  of  R.  G.  Elliott,  of  Lawrence,  that: 

*  "Brown  was  a  presence  in  Kansas  and  an  active  presence  all 
through  '56.  Yet  it  was  his  presence  more  than  his  activities,  that, 
made  him  a  power,  —  the  idea  of  his  being.  He  was  a  ghostly  in- 
fluence. No  man  in  Kansas  was  more  respected.  Yet  after  Potta- 
watomie he  moved  much  in  secret."" 

"War!  War!  !  War!  !  !  The  Bloody  Issue  Begun!  Up 
Sovereigns!  and  to  your  duty!  Patience  has  ceased  to  be  a 
virtue"  —  these  were  the  headlines  of  the  Leavenworth 
Journal's  extra  on  August  14,  in  which  it  described  the  next 
aggressive  movement  of  the  Free  State  forces,  the  second 
attack  upon  Franklin."  Despite  the  lesson  taught  to  the 
Southerners  by  the  successful  raid  of  June  5,  they  persisted 
in  living  in  their  Franklin  homes.  The  original  motive  for 
this  new  raid  was  the  desire  of  Captain  Thomas  Bickerton's 
artillery  company  for  a  six-pounder  known  to  be  at  Franklin, 
which  had  been  originally  captured  at  Lawrence,  for  which 
town  it  had  been  purchased  by  Horace  Greeley,  Charles 
King,  David  Dudley  Field  and  other  prominent  New  York- 
ers.2«  Part  of  Captain  Bickerton's  report  of  the  operations  of 
August  12  is  as  follows: " 

"The  Franklin  affair  was  kept  secret  from  the  people.  They 
thought  when  they  saw  us  going  that  we  were  going  out  by  the 
church  to  drill  by  moonlight.  When  we  got  up  near  to  Franklin  who 


THE  FOE  IN  THE  FIELD  231 

should  come  along  but  this  'Jo  Cook,'  on  horseback,  and  make 
himself  known  to  the  boys.  They  were  very  much  elated  with  see- 
ing Lane.  .  .  .  Afterthetakingof  the  place,  our  men,  I  am  ashamed 
to  say,  were  so  crazy  over  the  way,  in  gutting  Crane's  store,  that  I 
could  hardly  get  any  of  them  to  help  me  in  taking  the  cannon  out 
of  the  blockhouse.  .  .  .  The  postoffice  was  not  disturbed.  ...  I 
went  in  only  to  see  if  any  arms  or  powder  were  there.  Found  no 
cartridges  and  only  five  balls.  Got  the  cannon  on  the  carriage  and 
brought  it  to  Lawrence.  ...  I  then  went  to  work  and  made  a 
pattern  for  a  ball ;  as  there  was  no  lead  in  the  place,  and  we  had  no 
way  of  making  them  of  iron,  we  had  to  take  [G.  W.]  Brown's  type 
of  the  Herald  of  Freedom^ 

»  The  firing  lasted,  as  usual,  for  several  hours,  and  the  town 
was  not  surrendered  until  a  wagon  of  burning  hay  was  backed 
up  to  the  block-house.  The  Free  State  loss  was  one  killed 
and  six  wounded,  while  three  pro-slavery  men  were  severely 
and  one  mortally  wounded.  The  sack  of  Osawatomie  was 
avenged  now  by  the  securing  of  a  rare  amount  of  plunder, 
composed  of  provisions,  guns  and  ammunition.^s  Major 
Buford,  of  the  Georgia  colonizers,  complained  in  a  letter  to 
the  Mobile  Tribune  that: 

"  Our  money,  books,  papers,  clothing,  surveying  instruments,  and 
many  precious  memorials  of  kindred  and  friends  far  away,  were  all 
consumed  by  the  incendiary  villains  who  hold  the  sway.  .  .  .  We 
are  now  destitute  of  everything  except  our  muskets  and  an  unyield- 
ing determination  to  be  avenged.  .  .  .  Southerners  come  and  help 
us.  Bring  each  of  you  a  double  barrel  gun,  a  brace  of  Colt's  repeat- 
ers, and  a  trusty  knife."  ^° 

The  news  of  the  atrocious  murder  of  Major  Hoyt  on  the 
same  day  undoubtedly  inflamed  the  Franklin  raiders.  It  made 
the  Free  State  men  everywhere  determined  to  drive  out  the  pro- 
slavery  camps.  They  assailed,  on  August  15,  "Fort"  Saun- 
ders, a  strong  log-house  on  Washington  Creek,  about  twelve 
miles  southwest  of  Lawrence.  After  the  customary  fusillade, 
the  pro-slavery  men  retreated  without  bloodshed  on  either 
side.'"  Next  on  the  list  was  "Fort"  Titus,  the  stronghold  of 
Colonel  H.  T.  Titus,  an  active  pro-slavery  leader.  It  was  in 
order  to  assault  Titus's  fort  that  Captain  Bickerton's  men  de- 
sired to  recapture  the  Franklin  cannon.  There  was  real  fight- 
ing at  Fort  Titus,  which  Captain  Samuel  Walker,  Captain 
Joel  Grover  and  a  Captain  Shombre  attacked  at  sunrise  of 


232  JOHN  BROWN 

August  i6  with  fifty  determined  men.*  Captain  Shombre  was 
killed  and  nine  out  of  ten  men  with  him  wounded  in  a  rush  on 
the  block-house. '1  In  a  short  time  eighteen  out  of  the  remain- 
ing forty  attackers  were  wounded,  including  Captain  Walker. 
After  several  hours  of  fighting,  Free  State  reinforcements 
appeared,  including  Captain  Bickerton  with  the  six-pounder 
and  its  slugs  made  of  molten  type.  It  was  run  to  within  three 
hundred  yards  of  the  fort  and  fired  nine  or  ten  times.  At  its 
first  shot  its  cannoneer  cried,  "This  is  the  second  edition 
of  the  Herald  of  Freedom .' "  As  Titus  still  showed  no  white 
flag,  a  load  of  hay  was  again  resorted  to,  and  with  the  same 
success  as  at  Franklin.  As  the  wagon  was  backed  up  to  the 
log-fort,  and  before  the  match  was  applied,  the  party  sur- 
rendered. Colonel  Titus  was  discovered  badly  wounded  by 
a  shot  fired  by  Luke  F.  Parsons,  later  a  devoted  follower  of 
John  Brown. '2  Walker  captured  thirteen  horses,  four  hundred 
guns,  a  large  number  of  knives  and  pistols,  a  "fair  stock  of 
provisions  "  and  thirty-four  prisoners,  six  of  whom  were  badly 
wounded.  One  dead  man  was  found  in  the  block-house  before 
it  was  burned  to  the  ground.  A  Free  State  man  stole  a  satchel 
containing  fifteen  thousand  dollars  belonging  to  Titus,  but, 
says  Walker,  "it  did  him  little  good.  He  died  a  miserable 
death  in  the  far  West."  Everything  not  burned  was  appro- 
priated by  the  Free  State  men.  Colonel  Titus  himself  nar- 
rowly escaped  with  his  life.  But  for  Captain  Walker  he  would 
have  been  summarily  killed  on  being  taken,  and  but  for 
that  same  brave,  vigorous  character  he  would  have  been 
executed  at  Lawrence,  to  which  place  the  prisoners  were  at 
once  removed. 

The  testimony  as  to  whether  John  Brown  was  at  Saunders 
and  Titus  is  conflicting.  He  himself  left  no  statement  bearing 
upon  it,  and  Luke  Parsons,  James  Blood,  O.  E.  Leonard  and 
others  are  positive  that  he  was  not  at  either  place.  The  weight 
of  evidence  would  seem  to  be  on  that  side.  John  Brown,  after 
the  Wakarusa  "  war,"  left  Lawrence,  saying,  "I  offered  to  help 
you  and  you  would  not  listen.  I  will  still  work  with  you,  but 
under  no  commander  but  old  John  Brown.""  Thereafter  his 

"Within  sight  and  hearing  of  the  United  States  camp,  where  were  guarded 
the  treason  prisoners."  The  fight  was  witnessed  by  Major  Sedgwick's  troopers, 
who  failed,  however,  to  interfere.  —  C.  Robinson,  The  Kansas  Conflict,  p.  307. 


THE  FOE  IN  THE  FIELD  233 

disposition  was  to  fight  only  when  he  was  in  sole  command. 
Moreover,  his  remaining  at  Lawrence  during  those  crowded 
days  after  his  and  Lane's  arrival  there  might  easily  be  ex- 
plained by  his  desire  to  be  near  his  imprisoned  son,  whose 
rescue,  if  possible  and  advisable,  was  perhaps  the  strongest 
motive  for  his  return  to  Kansas  from  Nebraska  City.'*  But 
that  John  Brown  was  at  Lawrence  when  Walker  arrived 
with  his  prisoners  admits  of  no  doubt.  Again  his  voice  was 
raised  for  the  extreme  penalty;  again  he  asked  a  sacrifice  of 
blood.  As  Captain  Walker  portrays  it: 

"At  a  little  way  out  of  Lawrence  I  met  a  delegation  sent  by  the 
committee  of  safety  with  an  order  for  the  immediate  delivery  of 
Titus  into  their  hands.  Knowing  the  character  of  the  men  I  re- 
fused to  give  him  up.  Our  arrival  at  Lawrence  created  intense  ex- 
citement. The  citizens  swarmed  around  us,  clamoring  for  the  blood 
of  our  prisoner.  The  committee  of  safety  held  a  meeting  and  de- 
cided that  Titus  should  be  hanged,  John  Brown  and  other  distin- 
guished men  urging  the  measure  strongly.  At  four  o'clock  in  the 
evening  I  went  before  the  committee,  and  said  that  Titus  had  sur- 
rendered to  me;  that  I  had  promised  him  his  life,  and  that  I  would 
defend  it  with  my  own.  I  then  left  the  room.  Babcock  followed 
me  out  and  asked  me  if  I  was  fully  determined.  Being  assured  that 
I  was,  he  went  back,  and  the  committee  by  a  new  vote  decided 
to  postpone  the  hanging  indefinitely.  I  was  sure  of  the  support 
of  some  300  good  men,  and  among  them  Captain  Tucker,  Captain 
Harvey,  and  Captain  Stulz.  Getting  this  determined  band  into  line, 
I  approached  the  house  where  Titus  was  confined  and  entered.  Just 
as  I  opened  the  door  I  heard  pistol  shots  in  Titus's  room,  and  rush- 
ing in  I  found  a  desperado  named  '  Buckskin '  firing  over  the  guard's 
shoulders  at  the  wounded  man  as  he  lay  on  his  cot.  It  took  but  one 
blow  from  my  heavy  dragoon  pistol  to  send  the  villain  heels-over- 
head to  the  bottom  of  the  stairs.  Captain  Brown  and  Doctor  Avery 
were  outside  haranguing  the  mob  to  hang  Titus  despite  my  objec- 
tions. They  said  I  had  resisted  the  committee  of  safety,  and  was 
myself,  therefore,  a  public  enemy.  The  crowd  was  terribly  excited, 
but  the  sight  of  my  300  solid  bayonets  held  them  in  check." 

Colonel  Titus  was  finally  saved  by  Governor  Shannon.  In 
his  official  Executive  Minutes  of  August  18,  Governor  Shan- 
non has  thus  recorded  the  final  act  of  his  governorship:  " 

"Governor  Shannon  this  day  resigned  the  office  of  Governor  of 
the  Territory  of  Kansas,  and  forwarded  his  resignation  by  mail  to 
the  President  of  the  United  States,  having  previously  visited  the 
town  of  Lawrence,  at  the  imminent  hazard  of  his  life,  and  effected 


234  JOHN  BROWN 

the  release  of  Col.  H.  T.  Titus  and  others,  who  had  been  forcibly 
taken  there  by  the  armed  organization  of  outlaws  whose  headquar- 
ters are  at  that  place,  and  who  had  on  the  day  before  battered 
down  with  artillery  the  house  of  said  Col.  Titus,  robbed  his  premises 
of  everything  valuable,  and  then  burned  his  house  to  the  ground, 
kiUing  one  of  his  companions,  and  taking  the  remainder,  with  Col. 
Titus  and  their  plunder,  to  their  fortified  headquarters  —  Lawrence 
—  at  which  place  said  Titus  was  put  on  trial  for  his  life,  and  sen- 
tenced to  die;  which  sentence  would  doubtless  have  been  executed, 
but  for  the  timely  interposition  of  Governor  Shannon,  who,  in 
consideration  of  the  release  of  said  Titus  and  his  companions,  con- 
sented to  release  five  men  held  in  custody  in  Lecompton  under  legal 
process,  charged  with  being  engaged  in  the  late  midnight  attack 
and  sacking  of  the  town  of  Franklin  —  the  outlaws  having  per- 
emptorily refused  to  release  said  Titus  and  others,  upon  his  demand 
as  the  executive  ofificer  of  the  Territory." 

In  the  course  of  his  farewell  speech  to  the  citizens  of  Law- 
rence, Governor  Shannon  promised  to  deliver  over  to  Major 
Sedgwick  the  cannon  taken  from  Lawrence  on  the  21st  of 
May,  and  added :  "  Fellow-citizens  of  Lawrence,  before  leaving 
you  I  desire  to  express  my  earnest  desire  for  your  health,  hap- 
piness and  prosperity.  Farewell."  ^^  Governor  Shannon  in 
later  years  returned  to  Lawrence  and  settled  there,  winning 
the  regard  and  respect  of  his  neighbors  and  former  opponents. 
Even  his  old  enemy,  Dr.  Charles  Robinson,  whose  opinions 
about  his  former  associates  were  subject  to  radical  changes 
with  the  lapse  of  years,  paid  him  a  high  tribute  after  his  death. 
But  his  record  as  Governor  was  not  one  in  which  he  could 
righteously  take  pride.''  His  resignation  was  not  accepted 
by  President  Pierce  and  he  was  removed  from  his  office,'*  his 
successor  being  John  W.  Geary,  who  arrived  in  the  Territory 
on  September  9,  and  remained  only  six  months  in  this  posi- 
tion, resigning  on  March  20,  1857. 

Besides  the  larger  raids  already  recounted,  August  was  a 
month  of  minor  warfare.  Thus  on  August  13  the  home  of  the 
Rev.  Martin  White  was  raided  by  Free  State  men,  among 
them  James  H.  Holmes,  and  ten  pro-slavery  horses  were 
weaned  from  their  allegiance  to  a  wicked  and  failing  cause. 
White,  a  prejudiced  witness,  asserted  that  the  horses  were 
laden  with  plunder,  but  on  this  point  the  memories  of  Holmes 
and  Bondi,  both  participants,  failed  them.''  A  reprisal  was 
reported  by  the  Tribune  on  August  28,  in  these  words: 


THE  FOE  IN  THE  FIELD  235 

"On  the  22nd  the  Quaker  Mission,  on  the  road  from  Westport 
to  Lawrence,  was  attacked  by  an  armed  band  of  Georgians  who 
plundered  the  place,  taking  all  the  horses  they  could  find,  and  com- 
mitting all  manner  of  wanton  outrages  upon  persons  and  property. 
.  .  .  The  inoffensive  people  were  compelled  to  flee  for  their  lives, 
their  property  all  stolen  or  destroyed."  ■'  " 

The  loss  of  horses  seemed  especially  grievous  to  the  Trib- 
une's Lawrence  correspondent,  who  doubtless  had  not  heard 
of  the  exploit  at  Martin  White's. 

John  Brown's  brief  period  of  inactivity  in  Lawrence  came 
to  an  end  immediately  after  the  exchange  of  prisoners  with 
Shannon.*  According  to  Bondi,  he  arrived  in  Osawatomie,  for 
the  first  time  after  the  Pottawatomie  murders,  about  August 
20,  "with  a  spick  and  span  four-mule  team,  the  wagon  loaded 
with  provisions ;  besides,  he  was  well  supplied  with  money  and 
all  contributed  by  the  Northern  friends  of  the  Free  State 
Kansas,  men  like  Thaddeus  Hyatt."  Brown's  avowed  object 
was  to  give  the  pro-slavery  settlements  of  Linn  and  Bour- 
bon counties  "a  taste  of  the  treatment  which  their  Missouri 
friends  would  not  cease  to  extend  to  the  Free  State  settle- 
ments of  the  Marais  des  Cygnes  and  Pottawatomie,"  —  a 
statement  by  Bondi  which  again  refutes  the  allegation  that 
the  Pottawatomie  murders  freed  that  vicinity  from  interfer- 
ence by  the  Border  Ruffians. 

Naturally,  as  a  good  general,  John  Brown's  first  concern 
was  for  the  mounts  of  his  men.  Bondi  avers  that  some  of 
Brown's  men  received  prompt  orders  to  capture  all  of  "Dutch 
Henry"  Sherman's  horses.  He  himself  obtained,  when  these 
orders  were  executed,  "a  four  year  old  fine  bay  horse  for  my 
mount,"  and  "old  John  Brown  rode  a  fine  blooded  bay," 
while  "Dutch  Henry"  fell  back,  it  is  to  be  presumed,  upon 
Shanks'  mare,  and,  between  meditations  upon  his  just  pun- 
ishment for  sympathizing  with  Missouri,  doubtless  gave 
thanks  that  he  was  still  alive.  He  was  shot  down  in  the  road  — 

*  The  following  appeal  from  Lane  was  sent  to  John  Brown  from  Topeka  on 
August  12 :  "  Mr.  Brown  —  Gen.  Joe  Cook  wants  you  to  come  to  Lawrence  this 
night,  for  we  expect  to  have  a  fight  on  Washington  Creek.  Come  to  Topeka  as 
soon  as  possible,  and  I  will  pilot  you  to  the  place.  Yours  in  Haste,  H.  Stratton." 
This  Mr.  Stratton  is  one  of  those  who  are  certain  that  John  Brown  commanded 
the  "right  wing  of  cavalry"  in  the  attack  on  Fort  Saunders  on  August  15.  The 
original  of  Stratton's  message  is  in  the  Kansas  Historical  Society. 


236  JOHN  BROWN 

as  had  been  many  an  innocent  Free  Soiler  —  by  Archie  Crans- 
dell,  a  Free  State  man,  in  the  presence  of  James  H.  Holmes,  on 
March  2,  1857.*"  With  Brown  came  between  thirty  and  forty 
men,  whom  he  forthwith  began  to  organize  into  what  he 
called  a  "  regular  volunteer  force,"  for  the  purpose  of  serving 
throughout  the  war  under  his  command.  The  "  Covenant"  * 
drawn  up  by  him  under  which  the  men  enlisted,  together  with 
the  first  enlistments  and  the  by-laws  which  were  intended  to 
be  the  articles  of  war,  still  exists,  and  shows  that  his  company 
organized  as  if  the  authority  of  a  State  were  behind  its  com- 
mander. ** 

Associated  with  Brown's  company  was  one  comprising  in 
part  some  recently  arrived  lowans,  "every  one  mounted  on 
captured  pro-slavery  horses."  John  Brown  now  gave  con- 
siderable thought  to  the  best  way  of  defending  Osawatomie. 
According  to  C.  G.  Allen,  one  of  the  men  encamped  there, 
Brown  desired  to  meet  the  enemy  at  the  Marais  des  Cygnes 
crossing,  to  the  east  of  the  town,  and  then  to  fall  back  on 
the  twin  block-houses.  He  was  certain  that  the  Missourians, 
rumors  of  whose  approach  were  already  in  the  air,  would  come 

in  considerable  force  if  at  all,  a  prognostication  eminently 
correct.*  2 

On  August  24  the  Brown  and  Cline  companies  set  out  for 
the  South,  marching  eight  miles  and  camping  on  Sugar  Creek, 
Linn  County.  That  evening  John  Brown  made  a  speech  to 
his  company,  in  which,  according  to  Bondi,  he  made  these 
prescriptions  for  the  conduct  of  his  men  when  on  the  war- 
path: 

"He  wished  all  of  us  to  understand  that  we  must  not  molest 
women  or  children,  nor  to  take  or  capture  anything  useless  to  use 
for  Free  State  people;  further,  never  destroy  any  kind  of  property 
wantonly,  nor  burn  any  buildings,  as  Free  State  people  could  use 
them  after  the  Pro-slavery  people  were  driven  out;  never  consider 
that  any  captured  horses  or  cattle  were  anything  else  but  the  com- 
mon property  of  the  Free  State  army,  the  horses  for  military  use 
and  the  cattle  for  food  for  the  Free  State  soldiers  and  Free  State 
settlers.  He  ordered,  also,  that  we,  his  company,  should  always 
keep  some  distance  in  camp  from  the  Cline  Company,  as  they  were 
too  riotous."  ' 

*  See  Appendix. 


THE  FOE  IN  THE  FIELD  237 

While  in  camp  here,  news  reached  the  captains  that  a  large 
pro-slavery  force  was  in  the  immediate  neighborhood.  The 
Cline  company  took  the  lead  the  next  morning,  going  in  one 
direction.  Brown's  in  another.  The  luck  of  running  down  the 
enemy  came  to  Captain  Cline.  He  captured  some  spies  and 
finally  reached  and  charged  the  camp,  taking  twelve  prisoners 
and  the  camp  equipage,  one  of  the  Missourians  being  terribly 
wounded  in  one  leg.  In  the  course  of  this  fight  at  South  Middle 
Creek,  the  Free  State  men  released  George  W.  Partridge,  of 
Osawatomie,  who  had  been  taken  prisoner  by  the  Missouri 
men  the  day  before.  But  this  rescue  was  of  doubtful  value, 
since  he  met  a  violent  end  but  five  days  later.  The  Border 
Ruffians  fled  in  all  directions  for  dear  life,  shouting  that  John 
Brown  was  pursuing.*'  As  part  of  the  Border  Ruffians  had 
gone  toward  Pottawatomie,  John  Brown  and  his  men  went  in 
that  direction  for  a  while  and  then  circled  back.  The  next 
morning,  August  26,  at  daybreak,  the  two  Free  State  bodies 
met.  Brown  charging  at  the  head  of  his  determined  com- 
pany in  accordance  with  his  characteristic  tactics  of  seeking 
close  quarters.  Fortunately,  before  an  actual  collision  took 
place,  the  friends  recognized  each  other.  An  eye-witness  in 
Cline's  company,  Dr.  J.  W.  Winkley,  has  thus  described  this 
incident : 

"They  came  swiftly  up  over  the  brow  of  the  hill,  in  full  view, 
with  Brown  at  their  head,  and,  without  halting  or  even  slacken- 
ing their  speed,  swung  into  line  of  battle.  Only  thirty  men!  Yet 
they  presented  a  truly  formidable  array.  The  line  was  formed  two 
deep,  and  was  stretched  out  to  give  the  men  full  room  for  action. 
Brown  sprang  his  horse  in  front  of  the  ranks,  waving  his  long  broad- 
sword, and  on  they  came,  sweeping  down  upon  us  with  irresistible 
fury.  .  .  ."" 

After  exchanging  mutual  congratulations,  both  bodies 
parted  again,  not,  however,  until  the  prisoners  had  been  duly 
exhorted  by  John  Brown  and  made  to  promise  that  they 
would  not  take  up  arms  again,  and  then  set  adrift.  Dr. 
Winkley  thus  recalls  some  of  Brown's  earnest  and  stirring 
words:  *^ 

"You  are  fighting  for  slavery.  You  want  to  make  or  keep  other 
people  slaves.  Do  you  not  know  that  your  wicked  efforts  will  end 
in  making  slaves  of  yourselves?  You  come  here  to  make  this  a  slave 


238  JOHN  BROWN 

State.  You  are  fighting  against  liberty,  which  our  Revolutionary 
fathers  fought  to  establish  in  this  Republic,  where  all  men  should 
be  free  and  equal,  with  the  inalienable  rights  of  life,  liberty,  and 
the  pursuit  of  happiness.  Therefore,  you  are  traitors  to  liberty  and 
to  your  country,  of  the  worst  kind,  and  deserve  to  be  hung  to  the 
nearest  tree.  .  .  .  You  we  forgive.  For,  as  you  yourselves  have 
confessed,  we  believe  it  can  be  said  of  you  that,  as  was  said  of 
them  of  old,  you  being  without  knowledge,  'you  know  not  what 
you  do.'   But  hereafter  you  will  be  without  excuse. 

"Go  in  peace.  Go  home  and  tell  your  neighbors  and  friends  of 
your  mistake.  We  deprive  you  only  of  your  arms,  and  do  that  only 
lest  some  of  you  are  not  yet  converted  to  the  right.  We  let  you  go 
free  of  punishment  this  time ;  but,  do  we  catch  you  over  the  border 
again  committing  depredations,  you  must  not  expect,  nor  will  you 
receive,  any  mercy." 

John  Brown  then  rode  off  to  raid  the  pro-slavery  settle- 
ments on  Sugar  Creek.  By  a  coincidence,  the  leader  of  the 
Border  Ruffian  force  was  named  Captain  John  E.  Brown. 
To  his  house  the  anti-slavery  Brown  paid  an  early  visit,  taking 
as  his  toll  fifty  pro-slavery  cattle  and  all  the  men's  clothes 
the  house  contained.  Captain  Brown  assured  the  badly 
frightened  mistress  of  the  house  that  there  was  no  reason  for 
alarm,  —  that  he  never  hurt  women  and  children  as  did  her 
husband,  for  whom  he  left  his  compliments  and  the  message 
that  he  had  an  old  score  to  settle  with  him.^^  Other  houses 
were  similarly  searched,  and  their  cattle  taken,  on  the  ground 
that  they  had  originally  been  Free  State  before  being  pur- 
loined by  the  pro-slavery  settlers. 

On  Thursday  evening,  August  28,  Brown  reached  Osawa- 
tomie,  travelling  slowly  because  of  the  one  hundred  and  fifty 
head  of  cattle  he  drove  before  him.  Both  his  company  and 
Cline's  bivouacked  in  the  town  that  night.  The  next  morning 
early  they  divided  their  plunder  and  cattle,  and  Brown  moved 
his  camp  to  the  high  ground  north  of  Osawatomie,  where  now 
stands  the  State  Insane  Asylum.*'  It  was  then  known  as 
Crane's  ranch.  An  ordinary  commander  would  have  allowed 
all  his  men  to  rest.  But  not  John  Brown.  He  was  in  the 
saddle  all  day,  riding  with  James  H.  Holmes  and  others  of  his 
men  miles  along  Pottawatomie  Creek,  whence  he  crossed  to 
Sugar  Creek,  returning  to  Osawatomie  with  more  captured 
cattle  by  way  of  the  Fort  Scott  trail.  The  locality  they  rode 
through  bore  many  evidences  of  the  irregular  warfare  going  on; 


THE  FOE  IN  THE  FIELD  239 

they  passed  near  the  homes  of  the  murdered  pro-slavery  men 
and  the  deserted  cabins  of  Free  State  settlers.  One  of  Brown's 
companions,  George  W.  Partridge,  passed  his  own  claim,  and 
there  saw  his  aged  parents  for  the  last  time,  all  unconscious 
of  the  impending  and,  for  him,  fatal  conflict  of  the  next  day. 
To  Holmes,  John  Brown  appeared  on  that  afternoon  more 
than  ever  the  natural  leader.  He  rode  a  tall  and  strong  chest- 
nut horse;  his  spare  form  was  more  impressive  when  he  was 
mounted  than  when  he  was  afoot.  Alert  and  clear-sighted,  he 
ceaselessly  watched  the  landscape  for  evidences  of  the  enemy.** 

It  was  as  he  was  returning  thus,  in  a  cloud  of  dust,  and 
driving  the  motley  herd  before  him,  that  he  met  a  party  of 
men  galloping  toward  him.  The  newcomers  turned  out  to  be 
his  son  Frederick,  Alexander  G.  Hawes,  John  Still,  George 
Cutter  and  a  Mr.  Adamson,  who  had  been  sent  down  from 
Lawrence  by  General  Lane  with  the  earnest  request  that  John 
Brown  and  the  other  leading  Free  State  men  go  at  once  to 
Lawrence,  to  take  part  in  the  reorganization  of  the  Free  State 
forces,  and  also  to  oppose  Atchison,  who  was  then  reported 
about  to  invade  Kansas  once  more  and  with  a  large  body  of 
men.*'  After  consultation  it  was  decided  that  the  call  should  be 
heeded  on  the  next  day.  As  both  parties  reached  Osawatomie, 
about  sundown,  John  Brown  and  his  son  Frederick  parted  for 
the  last  time.  The  son  went  on  toward  Lawrence,  but,  accord- 
ing to  George  Cutter,  he  felt  indisposed  and  decided  to  spend 
the  night  at  the  house  of  a  settler  named  Carr,  on  the  Law- 
rence road,  only  a  couple  of  hundred  yards  from  the  cabin  of 
his  uncle,  the  Rev.  Mr.  Adair.  With  Frederick  Brown  stayed 
Mr.  Hawes.  Either  at  Carr's  or  in  the  neighboring  Cronkhite 
house  were  Still,  Cutter  and  Adamson  as  lodgers  for  the  night. 

John  Brown  and  his  party,  with  the  exception  of  Holmes, 
who  spent  the  night  in  town,  crossed  the  Marais  des  Cygnes 
to  their  camp  on  the  Crane  claim,  taking  their  cattle  with 
them.  Captain  Cline  and  about  fifteen  men  remained  in  the 
town,  at  the  juncture  of  the  Marais  des  Cygnes  and  the  Potta- 
watomie; here  stood  the  hamlet  and  its  block-house,  the  latter 
facing  toward  the  east,  from  which  direction  it  was  feared 
the  Missourians  might  come.  The  cry  of  wolf  had,  however, 
been  heard  in  Osawatomie  so  often,  that  on  the  29th  of  August 
no  especial  apprehension  was  felt. 


240  JOHN  BROWN 

Captain  Shore  and  a  small  company   of    Chicago  men 
left  about  three  o'clock  in  the  afternoon,  bound  northward 
toward  Lawrence,  and  no  sentinels  were  put  on  guard  save 
by  John  Brown,  in  accordance  with  the  articles  of  enlistment 
of  his  company.  Two  of  his  men,  Bondi  and  Benjamin,  were 
on  guard  from  two  A.  M.  on  the  morning  of  the  30th  until  the 
firing  began,'"  but  they  were  at  a  considerable  distance  from 
Osawatomie,   facing  toward   Paola  to   the  northeast,   from 
which  direction  John  Brown  himself  expected  that  the  ad- 
vance, if  any,  would  be  made.   Early  in  the  night  the  long- 
expected  warning  came,  after  nearly  every  one  had  gone  to 
bed.    John  Yelton,  a  mail-carrier,  arrived  fresh  from  a  ten 
days'  captivity  in   the  town  of  New  Santa  F6,  Missouri, 
and  warned  the  Greer  family  that  the  citizens  must  prepare 
either  to  fight  at  once  or  flee.  Both  Holmes  and  Dr.  Upde- 
graff  were  sleeping  in  the  house,  but  were  too  tired  fully  to 
comprehend  the  warning.  Action  was  therefore  deferred  until 
daylight. 

Yelton's  information  was  wholly  correct.  The  plan  to  raid 
Osawatomie  and  finally  destroy  it  had  carefully  matured  in 
the  minds  of  the  pro-slavery  leaders,  but  Osawatomie  was 
only  one  objective  of  the  formidable  expedition  which  left 
Westport  on  August  23,  and  marched  on  the  same  day  to 
New  Santa  Fe.  There  four  hundred  and  eighty  pro-slavery 
men  were  found  in  camp.  By  the  25th,  the  number  of  the 
Ruffians  then  being  eleven  hundred  and  fifty,  they  were  reg- 
ularly organized  as  two  regiments,  with  Atchison  as  major- 
general,  John  W.  Reid,  a  Mexican  War  veteran,  as  brigadier- 
general,  and  Colonel  P.  H.  Rosser,  of  Virginia,  as  colonel 
of  the  second  regiment,  while  the  first  was  entrusted  to  a 
Colonel  Brown.  Camp  was  broken  on  the  26th.  On  the 
29th,  at  Bull  Creek,  forty  miles  from  Osawatomie,  General 
Reid,  with  two  hundred  and  fifty  mounted  men  and  one  six- 
pounder,  was  detached  to  proceed  to  the  Abolition  settlement. 
According  to  a  pro-slavery  officer,  W.  Limerick,  who  wrote 
to  General  Shields,  of  Lexington,  Missouri,  on  the  29th  from 
Bull  Creek,  the  plan  was  to  attack  Osawatomie  at  once: 

"It  will  all  be  destroyed;  we  then  go  to  Hickory  Point,  all  the 
houses  in  the  settlement  will  be  burned ;  Topeka  will  share  the  same 
fate.  We  will  wait  at  this  place  for  some  200  or  300  men  expected 


THE  FOE  IN  THE  FIELD  241 

to  arrive  to-morrow.  We  are  confident  of  success  and  expect  to  clear 
the  whole  territory  of  Abolitionists  before  our  return.  ...  I  am 
just  informed  that  Lawrence  will  be  attacked  on  Sunday  next." 

General  Reid  made  an  all-night  march,  on  leaving  Bull 
Creek,  and,  taking  a  leaf  out  of  John  Brown's  tactics,  reached 
Osawatomie  in  the  early  morning.  He  was  too  experienced 
a  soldier  to  enter  from  the  direction  from  which  he  would  be 
expected,  but  passed  the  town  to  the  south  and,  after  getting 
well  beyond  it,  went  northward  until  he  struck  the  Lawrence 
road.  He  then  turned  his  army  again,  and  just  as  the  light 
began  to  glimmer  in  the  east,  on  the  morning  of  the  30th, 
reached  the  high  ground  above  the  town,  near  the  Adair,  Carr 
and  Cronkhite  houses.  He  thus  not  only  entered  from  the 
west,  but  had  the  opportunity  to  charge  downhill  into  the 
settlement,  if  he  wished  to  utilize  it. 

On  his  way,  Reid's  men  were  joined  by  the  Rev.  Martin 
White,  as  malignant  as  ever  in  his  hatred  of  all  Free  Soil  men, 
and  particularly  eager  to  enter  Osawatomie  in  order  to  recap- 
ture some  of  his  stolen  horses.  Because  of  his  knowledge  of 
the  country,  White  joined  the  "  point"  of  the  advance  guard, 
composed  of  two  or  three  men.  As  they  came  over  the  crest 
of  the  hill,  with  the  Adair  cabin  to  the  left  of  the  road  and  the 
Carr  house  to  their  right,  a  tall  and  vigorous  man  approached 
them,  all  unsuspicious  of  their  purpose.  It  was  Frederick 
Brown,  who  had  risen  early  to  feed  the  horses,  which  had  been 
left  overnight  on  the  Adair  place,  preparatory  to  a  prompt 
start  for  Lawrence.  It  is  the  tradition  in  Osawatomie  that 
Frederick  Brown  greeted  White  in  a  friendly  way.  White 
himself  thus  told  the  story  to  the  Kansas  (pro-slavery)  House 
of  Representatives  on  February  13  of  the  next  year: 

"Whilst  I  was  acting  as  one  of  the  advance  guard  coming  in  con- 
tact with  their  picket  guard,  Frederick  Brown,  one  of  their  guard, 
advanced  toward  us.  We  halted  and  I  recognized  him  and  ordered 
him  to  'halt,'  but  he  replied,  'I  know  you!'  and  continued  to  ad- 
vance towards  me.  I  ordered  him  a  second  time  to  'halt.'  By  this 
time  he  was  getting  very  close  to  me,  and  threw  his  hand  to  his 
revolver;  to  save  my  own  life  I  shot  him  down."^ 

White's  first  bullet  went  straight  through  his  victim's  heart 
and  Brown  tumbled  to  the  ground,  —  probably  without  hav- 
ing any  thought  of  violence  before  consciousness  fled  forever. 


242  JOHN  BROWN 

If  it  was  the  spell  of  the  Pottawatomie  murders  which  had 
brought  him  back  to  the  neighborhood  of  the  dread  crimes 
upon  which  he  had  gazed  helpless,  between  a  sense  of  wrong 
and  fidelity  to  his  dominating  father,  he  had  now  paid  in 
full  for  his  participation  as  an  accessory.  Certain  it  is  that 
Frederick  Brown  was  no  more  prepared  for  his  sudden  end  than 
were  the  men  whose  blood  had  been  shed  by  John  Brown's 
orders,  that  there  might  be  remission  of  sin  for  the  Border 
Ruffians.  White  pretended  to  recognize  the  boots  on  Brown 
as  a  pair  stolen  from  his  son  in  the  raid  upon  White ;  but  there 
is  no  evidence  to  show  that  Frederick  Brown  was  at  that  time 
elsewhere  than  in  Lawrence.  On  January  i,  i860,  White 
wrote  to  the  Bates  County,  Missouri,  Standard:  "The  same 
day  I  shot  Fred,  I  would  have  shot  the  last  devil  of  the  gang 
that  was  in  the  attack  on  my  house,  if  I  had  known  them  and 
got  the  chance,"  —  a  truly  Christian  sentiment  for  a  minister 
of  the  gospel. 

The  pretence  that  he  saw  in  Frederick  Brown  a  picket  of 
the  enemy  was  obviously  an  afterthought  of  White's.  There 
was  no  sign  of  any  stirring  as  the  two  men  met,  and  the  next 
few  developments  certainly  dispel  the  theory  that  the  laws 
of  war  were  being  followed.  The  shot  that  killed  Brown  was 
heard  both  at  the  Adair  and  Carr  houses,  as  well  as  the  noise 
of  horses'  feet  as  the  advance  guard  passed  on  toward  the  town. 
As  the  Rev.  Mr.  Adair  came  hurriedly  out  of  his  house,  he  met 
David  Garrison,  a  relative  and  a  settler  in  that  vicinity,  who 
had  slept  in  a  shed  in  the  rear  of  the  Adair  cabin.  They  hurried 
to  the  road,  and,  looking  down  it.  Garrison  asked:  "What  is 
that  lying  on  the  road?  "  Adair  thought  it  a  blanket  —  only  to 
find  it  was  the  body  of  his  nephew  Frederick.  As  they  stood 
over  the  corpse,  some  of  the  others,  Cutter  and  Hawes  among 
them,  arrived  from  the  Carr  house.  Adair  hurried  westward 
to  see  if  any  one  else  was  coming,  and  quickly  perceived  the 
head  of  the  main  column  of  Reid's  forces,  now  steadily  ap- 
proaching. He  hurried  back,  shouting  to  the  others  to  save 
themselves.  Adair  safely  reached  his  own  cabin,  gave  a  warn- 
ing, and  then  hid  in  the  bushes  unharmed  until  his  children 
found  him  and  notified  him  that  he  might  return.  No  such 
good  fortune  attended  the  others.  Garrison,  Hawes  and  Cut- 
ter made  the  mistake  of  returning  to  Carr's,  where  they  were 


THE  FOE  IN  THE  FIELD  243 

speedily  seen  and  pursued  into  the  brush.  Hawes  miraculously 
escaped  without  injury,  the  Border  Ruffians  almost  riding 
over  him.  Cutter,  being  overtaken  after  exchanging  shots  with 
his  pursuers,  received  in  his  head  and  body  four  charges  of 
buckshot.  Leaving  him  for  a  moment,  the  Ruffians  followed  the 
unarmed  Garrison,  and  overhauled  and  summarily  despatched 
him.  Returning  to  Cutter,  one  of  the  Ruffians  dismounted, 
kicked  him,  turned  him  over  and  said:  "  He  breathes;  if  I  only 
had  another  charge  in  my  gun,  I  would  put  it  in  his  head.  I 
guess  that  would  fix  him."  Fortunately  for  Cutter,  the  Mis- 
sourian  could  not  make  his  revolver  work,  and  so  rode  off 
saying:  "Let  him  rip,  he  will  die  fast  enough!"  —  Such  was 
humanity  in  Kansas  on  the  30th  of  August,  1856!  Despite 
thirty  distinct  wounds.  Cutter  survived  his  terrible  experi- 
ence, Hawes  bringing  him  aid  and  food  as  soon  as  the  Ruf- 
fians disappeared. 

Had  Reid's  men  now  galloped  directly  into  the  village, 
which  was  but  a  mile  and  a  half  away,  they  would  have  been 
in  complete  control  before  any  one  could  have  slipped  away. 
Instead,  his  men  delayed  on  the  ridge,  perhaps  for  breakfast, 
and  the  news  of  their  coming  and  of  the  death  of  Frederick 
Brown  was  carried  into  the  town  by  Charles  Adair,  a  mere 
boy,  who  galloped  in.  A  messenger  at  once  crossed  the  river 
to  alarm  John  Brown.  The  first  to  take  the  aggressive  were 
Dr.  Updegraff  and  Holmes.  The  latter,  who  was  saddling 
up  when  the  news  came,  rode  up  toward  the  Adairs'  until  he 
sighted  the  Border  Ruffians,  upon  whom  he  fired  three  times 
from  his  Sharp's  rifle.  This  incident  again  checked  the  advance 
and  gave  the  Free  State  men  time  to  rally  to  the  defence. 
Brown  himself  was  preparing  breakfast  as  the  news  of  his 
son's  death  reached  him.  He  seized  his  arms,  cried,  "Men, 
come  on!"  and  with  Luke  F.  Parsons  hurried  downhill  to  the 
crossing  nearest  the  town.  The  others  delayed  to  finish  their 
coffee,  but  most  of  them  overtook  their  leader  as  he  reached 
the  town.  On  their  way  John  Brown  asked:  "Parsons,  were 
you  everunder  fire? "  "  I  replied, ' No,' "  relates  Parsons, "  'no, 
but  I  will  obey  orders.  Tell  me  what  you  want  me  to  do.'" 
To  which  Brown  answered  with  the  well-known  sentence, 
"Take  more  care  to  end  life  well  than  to  live  long."  With  this 
sentiment  on  his  lips,  the  grim  chieftain  of  the  "volunteer 


244  JOHN  BROWN 

regulars"  entered  the  engagement  which  gave  him  more 
renown  than  anything  save  the  dimax  of  his  career;  from 
this  time  forward  it  was  as  "Old  Osawatomie  Brown"  that 
he  was  most  generally  knoAvn, 

As  they  reached  the  block-house,  Brown  said:  "Parsons, 
take  ten  men  and  go  Into  that  block-house  and  hold  your  posi- 
tions as  long  as  you  can.  I  '11  take  the  rest  of  the  men,  go  into 
the  timber  and  annoy  them  from  the  flank."  This  Parsons 
did,  finding  in  the  block-house  Spencer  Kellogg  Brown,  son 
of  O.  C.  Brown,  the  founder  of  the  town,  a  lad  fourteen  years 
old,  of  rare  pluck  and  daring  disposition,  who,  being  allowed 
to  go  and  get  a  rifle,  returned  with  it  in  a  few  minutes.  From 
the  second  story,  Parsons's  men  saw  the  Border  Ruffians  com- 
ing in  two  long  lines  with  their  brass  cannon.  One  of  them 
cried,  "We  cannot  stay  here,  they  will  drive  us  out."  When 
Parsons  and  Austin  took  their  places  in  the  second  story  to 
study  the  situation,  their  men  all  decamped  to  join  Brown. 
Following  them.  Parsons  met  Captain  Cline  and  his  company 
of  fifteen  well-mounted  men  retiring  through  the  town,  aban- 
doning their  cattle  and  other  plunder.  Only  four  days  pre- 
viously, this  little  band,  then  considerably  larger,  had  gallantly 
charged  the  Border  Ruffians  on  South  Middle  Creek.  On  this 
particular  morning,  Captain  Cline  could  not  be  induced  to  stay 
very  long  on  the  line  of  battle;  one  of  his  men,  Theodore 
Parker  Powers,  was  killed  in  the  few  minutes  they  were  at 
the  front.  Captain  Cline  explained  to  the  Tribune  "  that  his 
men  did  not  retire  until  they  ran  out  of  ammunition.  In  any 
event,  their  disappearance  weakened  the  Free  State  force  not 
a  little.  Parsons  and  Austin  found  that  Brown  had  skilfully 
hidden  his  men  behind  the  trees  and  brush  in  the  fringe  of 
timber  along  the  Marais  des  Cygnes,  which  ran  nearly  par- 
allel to  the  road  down  which  the  Missourians  were  coming. 
There  is  to-day  still  a  fringe  of  timber  along  the  river,  and  still 
the  open  space  across  which  the  opposing  forces  fired  at  each 
other. 

The  Border  Ruffians  were  mounted  and  in  the  open.  When 
the  shots  from  the  Free  State  men  struck  among  them,  the 
agitation  caused  by  wounded  men  or  horses  threw  the  com- 
panies into  confusion,  which  they  at  first  tried  to  correct  by 
re-forming  under  fire.   As  the  firing  grew  hotter,  more  men 


THE  OSAVVATOMIE   BATTLEFIELD 
Looking  toward  the  river 


PART    OF   THE   BLACK   JACK    BATTLEFIELD 


THE  FOE  IN  THE  FIELD  245 

joined  John  Brown,  among  them  Alexander  Hawes,  unde- 
terred by  his  narrow  escape  when  Garrison  and  Cutter  were 
shot.  As  each  man  came  under  his  eye,  Brown  placed  him 
behind  a  tree  or  a  rock,  but  the  leader  himself  walked  up  and 
down,  encouraging  the  others  and  bidding  them  make  their 
fire  effective.  His  son  Jason  was  near  him  most  of  the  time. 
Once  Brown  stopped  and  asked  Parsons  if  he  could  see  any- 
thing torn  or  bloody  upon  his  back.  "  No,  Captain,  I  cannot," 
replied  Parsons.  "Well,  something  hit  me  a  terrible  rap  on  the 
back,"  said  Brown;  "I  don't  intend  to  be  shot  in  the  back  if 
I  can  help  it." 

It  is  not  probable  that,  all  told,  John  Brown  had  more  than 
thirty-eight  or  forty  men  in  line,  aside  from  Cline's  force.  He 
himself  said  about  thirty.  They  held  their  ground  well,  even 
after  Reid  brought  his  cannon  into  play.  His  grape-shot  went 
too  high  into  the  trees,  bringing  down  branches  and  adding  to 
the  discomfort  of  the  Free  Soil  men,  but  not  actually  injuring 
anybody.  Next,  the  Border  Ruffians  dismounted,  and,  urged 
by  General  Reid,  who  waved  his  sword  and  shouted  loudly, 
advanced  toward  the  woods.  At  once  Brown's  men  began  to 
retreat,  following  the  stream  and  keeping  in  the  protection  of 
the  timber  until  they  had  gone  some  distance  down  toward 
the  saw-mill.  When  they  were  on  the  bank,  all  suddenly 
turned  as  if  an  order  had  been  given  and  jumped  into  the 
river.  It  was  the  Border  Ruffians'  opportunity.  In  a  skirmish 
or  in  real  warfare,  to  have  an  unfordable  river  at  one's  back 
is  the  worst  of  tactics.  For  this  John  Brown  must  not  be  cen- 
sured, since  it  was  the  only  place  where  he  could  have  made 
a  stand,  unless  he  had  chosen  to  fight  in  the  settlement  itself 
and  risked  the  lives  of  the  women  and  children  there. 

But  if  Brown  was  not  to  blame  for  this  strategy,  the  con- 
sequences of  it  were  serious,  in  that  George  Partridge  was 
killed  in  the  river.  Holmes  saved  his  life  miraculously  by  div- 
ing when  under  heavy  fire.  Parsons  and  Austin  narrowly 
escaped  Partridge's  fate,  Austin  by  hiding  between  some  logs 
near  the  saw-mill,  and  shooting  a  Border  Ruffian  out  of  his 
saddle.  Dr.  Updegraflf ,  who  had  been  badly  wounded  in  the 
thigh,  managed  to  escape.  George  Grant  had  time  to  notice 
that  John  Brown,  as  he  waded  the  river,  cut  a  "queer  figure, 
in  a  broad  straw  hat  and  a  white  linen  duster,  his  old  coat- 


246  JOHN  BROWN 

tails  floating  outspread  upon  the  water  and  a  revolver  held 
high  in  each  hand,  over  his  head."  Jason  Brown,  too,  re- 
members the  generalissimo's  Hnen  duster;  he,  hke  his  father, 
got  safely  across.  The  fourteen-year-old  soldier,  Spencer  K. 
Brown,  fell  into  the  enemy's  hands,  as  did  Robert  Reynolds, 
H.  K.  Thomas  and  Charles  Kaiser.  The  latter,  a  veteran  of 
a  European  revolution,  fought  to  the  last  on  the  edge  of 
the  river  before  yielding  to  a  relentless  enemy.  William  B. 
Fuller,  a  settler,  was  captured  before  the  fight  began,  and 
Joseph  H.  Morey  later  in  the  day. 

In  later  years,  General  Reid  insisted  that  there  was  no  battle 
at  Osawatomie, —  "  merely  the  driving  out  of  a  flock  of  quail."" 
But  after  the  quail  had  crossed  the  river,  there  was  still  mis- 
chief for  Reid  to  do.  He  fired  a  round  or  two  at  the  block- 
house before  all  of  Brown's  men  were  out  of  range  and  hearing, 
and  then,  when  there  was  no  reply,  his  Ruffians  began  the 
work  of  reducing  Osawatomie  to  ashes.  This  was  done  despite 
General  Reid's  protest.  If  he  had  held  his  men  bravely  to 
their  work  in  the  hour's  fighting  with  Brown,  he  was  unequal 
now  to  saving  the  twenty-five  to  thirty  houses  and  stores, 
that  were  plundered  and  then  burned.  O.  C.  Brown's  safe  was 
robbed  of  one  hundred  and  twenty-five  dollars,  after  which 
the  torch  was  applied  to  his  house.  Three  bags  full  of  mail, 
which  the  warning  mail-carrier,  John  Yelton,  had  brought, 
were  cut  open  and  their  contents  examined  and  flung  to  the 
winds.  The  horses  and  cattle  at  hand  were  gathered  up  and 
carried  off,  including  Cline's  booty  from  South  Middle  Creek. 
The  saw-mill  of  the  Emigrant  Aid  Society  was  not  harmed, 
because,  it  is  said,  a  single  man.  Freeman  Austin,  opened  such 
a  brisk  fire  on  the  Border  Ruffians  as  they  approached,  that 
they  retired  in  haste. 

By  ten  o'clock  of  that  evening.  General  Reid's  command 
was  back  at  the  Bull  Creek  camp.  On  the  next  day  he  made 
the  following  official  report  of  his  enterprise : 

Camp  Bull  Creek,  Aug.  31. 
Gentlemen:  —  I  moved  with  250  men  on  the  Abolition  fort  and 
town  of  Osawattomie  —  the  headquarters  of  Old  Brown  —  on  night 
before  last;  marched  40  miles  and  attacked  the  town  without  dis- 
mounting the  men  about  sunrise  on  yesterday.  We  had  a  brisk 
fight  for  an  hour  or  more  and  had  five  men  wounded  —  none  dan- 


THE  FOE  IN  THE  FIELD  247 

gerously  —  Capt.  Boice,  William  Gordon  and  three  others.  We 
killed  about  thirty  of  them,  among  the  number,  certain,  a  son  of 
Old  Brown,  and  almost  certain  Brown  himself;  destroyed  all  their 
ammunition  and  provisions,  and  the  boys  would  burn  the  town  to 
the  ground.    I  could  not  help  it. 

We  must  be  supported  by  our  friends.  We  still  want  more  men 
and  ammunition,  ammunition  of  all  sorts.  Powder,  muskets,  balls 
and  caps  is  the  constant  cry. 

I  write  in  great  haste,  as  I  have  been  in  saddle,  rode  100  miles, 
and  fought  a  battle  without  rest. 

Your  friend, 

Reid." 

A  joint  letter  of  Congrave  Jackson  and  G.  B.  M.  Maughas, 
"Capt.  of  Company  B,"  dated  at  Bull  Creek,  September  i, 
gives  another  pro-slavery  view  of  the  fight: 

"The  enemy  commenced  firing  on  us  at  half  a  mile,  which  is  point 
blank  range  for  Sharp's  Rifles.  They  had  taken  cover  under  a  thick 
growth  of  underwood  and  numbered  about  150.  We  charged  upon 
them,  having  to  march  800  yards  across  an  open  prairie,  against 
an  unseen  foe,  through  a  hail-storm  of  rifle  bullets.  This  was  done 
with  a  coolness  and  ability  unsurpassed,  until  we  got  within  50  yards 
of  them  when  we  commenced  a  galling  fire,  which  together  with  some 
telling  rounds  of  grape  from  our  cannon,  soon  drove  them  from 
their  hiding  place  with  a  loss  of  some  20  or  30  men  killed.  We  had 
lost  not  a  single  man,  and  had  only  five  or  six  wounded."^ 

The  report  of  the  death  of  John  Brown  persisted  for  only 
a  few  days.  That  it  was  believed,  or  hoped  for,  in  St.  Louis  a 
week  later,  appears  from  the  following  editorial  in  the  St. 
Louis  Morning  Herald  of  September  6,  1856,  which  declared 
that  because  of  Pottawatomie,  "by  far  the  most  atrocious 
and  inexcusable  outrage  yet  perpetrated  in  that  distracted 
Territory,  ...  his  death  and  the  destruction  of  his  family 
would,  for  that  reason,  be  less  a  matter  of  regret  even  with 
men  of  the  humanest  feeling." 

Brown  made  no  attempt  to  rally  his  force  after  it  was  driven 
across  the  Marais  des  Cygnes.  It  was  too  scattered  to  make 
that  possible.  Indeed,  Bondi,  Benjamin  and  Hawes  set  off 
at  once  for  Lawrence,  and  so,  by  himself,  did  Holmes.  John 
Brown  and  Jason  spent  a  good  part  of  the  day  searching  for 
a  ford  above  the  town  by  which  they  might  cross  to  the  Adair 
house.  But  before  they  set  out  to  reach  their  relatives  and 
find  the  dead  body  of  their  son  and  brother,  Frederick,  they- 


248  JOHN  BROWN 

stood  on  the  bank  above  the  river  and  watched  the  smoke 
and  flames  of  burning  Osawatomie.  "God  sees  it,"  said  John 
Brown,  according  to  Jason,  as  he  watched  this  spectacle,  the 
tears  rolling  down  his  face.  "  I  have  only  a  short  time  to  live 
—  only  one  death  to  die,  and  I  will  die  fighting  for  this  cause. 
There  will  be  no  more  peace  in  this  land  until  slavery  is  done 
for.  I  will  give  them  something  else  to  do  than  to  extend  slave 
territory.   I  will  carry  the  war  into  Africa." 

If  the  Border  Ruffians  were  at  sea  in  their  estimate  of  the 
loss  of  life  they  had  inflicted,  John  Brown  was  still  further 
from  the  mark  in  his  report  of  General  Reid's  casualties. 
This  appears  from  his  letter  of  September  7  to  his  family: 

Lawrence  K  T  7th  Sept  1856 
Dear  Wife  &  Children  Every  One  I  have  one  moment  to 
write  to  you  to  say  that  I  am  yet  alive  that  Jason,  &  family  were  well 
yesterday  John ;  &  family  I  hear  are  well ;  he  being  yet  a  prisoner. 
On  the  morning  of  the  30th  Aug  an  attack  was  made  by  the  ruffians 
on  Osawatomie  numbering  some  400  by  whose  scouts  our  dear 
Fredk  was  shot  dead  without  warning  he  supposing  them  to  be 
Free  State  men  as  near  as  we  can  learn.  One  other  man  a  Cousin 
of  Mr.  Adair  was  murdered  by  them  about  the  same  time  that 
Fredk  was  killed  &  one  badly  wounded  at  the  same  time.  At  this 
time  I  was  about  3  miles  off  where  I  had  some  14  or  15  men  over 
night  that  I  had  just  enlisted  to  serve  under  me  as  regulars.  These 
I  collected  as  well  as  I  could  with  some  12  or  15  more  &  in  about 
f  of  an  Hour  attacked  them  from  a  wood  with  thick  undergrowth, 
with  this  force  we  threw  them  into  confusion  for  about  15  or  20 
minuets  during  which  time  we  killed  &  wounded  from  70  to  80  of 
the  enemy  as  they  say  &"  then  we  escaped  as  well  as  we  could  with 
one  killed  while  escaping ;  Two  or  Three  wounded ;  &  as  many  more 
missing.  Four  or  Five  Free-State  men  were  butchered  during  the 
day  in  all.  Jason  fought  bravely  by  my  side  during  the  fight  & 
escaped  with  me  he  being  unhurt.  I  was  struck  by  a  partly  spent 
Grape,  Canister,  or  Rifle  shot  which  bruised  me  some,  but  did  not 
injure  me  seriously.  "Hitherto  the  Lord  hath  helped  me  "  notwith- 
standing my  afflictions.  Things  seem  rather  quiet  just  now;  but 
what  another  Hour  will  bring  I  cannot  say.  I  have  seen  Three  or 
Four  letters  from  Ruth  &  one  from  Watson,  of  July  or  Aug  which 
are  all  I  have  seen  since  in  June.  I  was  very  glad  to  hear  once 
more  from  you  &  hope  that  you  will  continue  to  write  to  some  of 
the  friends  so  that  I  may  hear  from  you.  I  am  utterly  unable  to 
write  you  for  most  of  the  time.  May  the  God  of  our  fathers  bless 
&  save  you  all 

Your  Affectionate  Husband  &  Father, 

John  Brown.  : 


THE  FOE  IN  THE  FIELD  249 

Monday  morning,  8th  Sept.  56 
Jason  has  just  come  in    Left  all  well  as  usual.   Johns  trial  is  to 
come  off  or  commence  today.   Yours  ever 

John  Brown.'' 

Subsequently,  John  Brown  thus  summarized  the  results  of 
the  fight  for  Lydia  Maria  Child: 

Border  Ruffian  force  at  Osawatomie  Aug.  30th  400  men. 
Free  State  force  30  men. 

Ruffians  (as  by  their  private  account  31  or  32)  killed,  &  from 
45  to  50  wounded. 

Loss  of  Free  State  men  in  the  fight  one  killed  &  2  wounded  Free 
Statemen  murdered  Four ;  &  one  left  for  dead  with  twenty  shot  & 
bullet  holes.  One  proslavery  man  murdered  by  themselves. 

Your  friend 

John  Brown." 

The  pro-slavery  man  reported  murdered  was  named  Wil- 
liam Williams,  said  to  have  been  a  "Free  State  Missourian," 
whom  neither  party  claimed ;  his  name  is  not  on  the  Osawato- 
mie monument.  He  was  killed  in  the  town  before  the  Border 
Ruffians  left.  As  to  the  loss  of  the  latter,  there  is  no  evidence 
to  show  in  contemporary  accounts  or  newspapers  that  it  was 
as  heavy  as  Brown  himself  thought.  He  prepared  for  the 
press,  on  the  same  day  that  he  wrote  the  above  letter,  a  more 
elaborate  story  of  the  battle,  which  in  no  wise  differed  from 
the  letter  in  any  of  its  facts.  It  is  a  concise  and  excellently 
written  narrative,  one  of  the  best  products  of  his  pen.  In  it  he 
thus  explains  his  plan  in  taking  his  men  into  the  timber: 

"As  I  had  no  means  of  learning  correctly  the  force  of  the  enemy, 
I  placed  twelve  of  the  recruits  in  a  log-house  hoping  we  might  be 
able  to  defend  the  town.  I  then  gathered  some  fifteen  more  men 
together,  whom  we  armed  with  guns,  and  we  started  in  the  direction 
of  the  enemy.  After  going  a  few  rods  we  could  see  them  approach- 
ing the  town  in  line  of  battle,  about  half  a  mile  off,  upon  a  hill  west 
of  the  village.  I  then  gave  up  all  idea  of  doing  more  than  to  annoy, 
from  the  timber  near  the  town,  into  which  we  were  all  retreated, 
and  which  was  filled  with  a  thick  growth  of  underbrush ;  but  I  had 
no  time  to  recall  the  twelve  men  in  the  log-house,  and  so  lost  their 
assistance  in  the  fight.  At  the  point  above  named  I  met  with  Cap- 
tain Cline,  a  very  active  young  man,  who  had  with  him  some  twelve 
or  fifteen  mounted  men,  and  persuaded  him  to  go  with  us  into  the 
timber,  on  the  southern  shore  of  the  Osage,  or  Marais  des  Cygnes, 
a  little  to  the  northwest  from  the  village."^' 


250  JOHN  BROWN 

It  would  seem  from  the  above  that  John  Brown  was  not 
aware  that  the  men  from  the  block-house  joined  his  line.  Yet 
he  must  have  known  that  Parsons  and  Austin  joined  him. 
This  confusion  may  account  for  his  underestimate  of  the  men 
who,  from  their  own  narratives  and  those  of  others,  are  known 
to  have  fought  with  him  in  the  timber.  As  for  the  prisoners, 
Charles  Kaiser  met  the  same  cruel  fate  as  did  Dow,  Major 
Hoyt,  Hoppe  and  the  long  list  of  those  murdered  in  cold  blood 
by  the  Border  Ruffians.  Two  days  after  his  capture,  on  Sep- 
tember I,  after  the  army  of  Atchison  had  retreated  to  Cedar 
Creek,  he  was  taken  out  and  shot  to  death,  —  first  having 
been  told,  it  is  said,  to  run  for  his  life.  This  cowardly  murder 
is  assigned  by  one  of  the  prisoners  as  a  reason  why  the  Border 
Ruffian  force,  the  command  of  which  was  resigned  by  Gen- 
eral Atchison  to  General  Reid  on  the  same  day,  began  to  melt 
away.''  Spencer  Kellogg  Brown,  the  boy  prisoner,  was  set 
free  by  the  Border  Ruffians,  only  to  die,  if  anything,  more 
tragically  than  Kaiser.  After  having  been  a  useful  Federal 
spy,  he  was  caught  by  the  Confederates  and  hanged  in  Rich- 
mond on  September  25,  1863,  when  but  twenty-one  years 
old.^"  The  other  four  prisoners  were  sent  down  the  Missouri 
River  on  the  Polar  Star,  under  pain  of  death  if  they  re- 
turned to  Kansas.  At  St.  Louis  they  were  permitted  to  go 
their  way. 

The  news  of  Brown's  defeat  and  the  burning  of  Osawato- 
mie  intensified  an  altogether  critical  situation  in  Kansas.  The 
acting  Governor,  Woodson,  was  openly  pro-slavery;  it  was 
his  proclamation  of  August  25,  declaring  Kansas  to  be  "in 
a  state  of  open  insurrection  and  rebellion,"  and  calling  on  all 
good  citizens  to  put  down  the  "large  bodies  of  armed  men, 
many  of  whom  have  just  arrived  from  the  States,"  which  gave 
Atchison  and  Reid's  army  the  excuse  to  masquerade  once 
more  as  Kansas  militia,  or  assistants  to  the  legally  constituted 
authorities.  That  they  were  a  large  body  of  armed  men,  all  of 
whom  had  just  arrived  from  another  State,  did  not  in  the  least 
excite  Mr.  Woodson's  distrust.  Three  days  after  the  battle  of 
Osawatomie,  on  September  5,  he  even  went  so  far  as  to  order 
Lieut.-Col.  Cooke,  of  the  United  States  Dragoons,  to  proceed 
at  once  to  Topeka,  to  invest  the  town  and  disarm  and  arrest 
"all  the  insurrectionists  or  aggressive  invaders  against  the 


THE  FOE  IN  THE  FIELD'  251 

organized  government"  to  be  found  at  or  near  Topeka,  and  to 
retain  them  as  prisoners.  He  was  especially  ordered  to  level 
all  their  breastworks,  forts  or  fortifications,  to  the  ground,  and 
to  intercept  all  armed  persons  coming  over  "Lane's  trail" 
from  the  Nebraska  line  to  Topeka."  Naturally,  Lieut.-Col. 
Cooke  declined  to  obey  so  extraordinary  and  partisan  an 
order,  for  which  decision  he  was  subsequently  highly  com- 
mended by  the  Secretary  of  War.  Jefferson  Davis,  however, 
was  so  greatly  wrought  up  over  the  situation  in  the  Terri- 
tory on  September  3,  that  "the  position  of  the  insurgents" 
seemed  to  him  "open  rebellion  against  the  laws  and  consti- 
tutional authorities,  with  such  manifestation  of  a  purpose  to 
spread  devastation  over  the  land,  as  no  longer  justifies  fur- 
ther hesitation  or  indulgence."  In  thus  expressing  himself  to 
General  Smith,  he  added  that  "patriotism  and  humanity  alike 
require  that  rebellion  should  be  promptly  crushed.  .  .  ."  To 
this  end,  General  Smith  was  notified  that  the  President  had 
ordered  the  organization  of  the  Kansas  militia ;  that  the  gen- 
eral was  to  ask  for  as  much  of  this  force  as  he  needed  for  the 
work  of  pacification,  and,  if  he  could  not  get  sufficient  aid 
from  this  source,  he  was  authorized  to  call  upon  the  Govern- 
ors of  Kentucky  and  Illinois  for  the  two  regiments  of  foot 
militia  requisitioned  that  same  day  by  President  Pierce  from 
each  State,  in  accordance  with  his  constitutional  rights.*^  An 
excellent  regiment  of  regular  infantry,  the  Sixth,  had  already 
been  sent  to  the  Territory  as  a  reinforcement  to  the  First  Cav- 
alry and  Second  Dragoons.  As  it  turned  out,  the  Territory 
could  raise  only  a  few  companies  of  bona  fide  militia  for  Gen- 
eral Smith,  but  a  sudden  change  in  events  made  it  unneces- 
sary for  him  to  ask  for  more  troops,  or  to  call  on  the  Illinois 
and  Kentucky  executives. 

General  Smith  himself,  in  explaining,  under  date  of  Sep- 
tember 10,  to  the  War  Department  how  it  was  that  Osa- 
watomie  was  sacked  when  there  were  regulars  in  the  vicinity, 
reported  that  Brown  had  had  thirteen  men  killed,  and  bluntly 
added,  "though  there  is  nothing  to  regret  as  to  those  who 
suffered,  yet  the  act  was  a  grossly  unlawful  act,  and  deprives 
those  who  took  part  in  it  of  all  consideration  for  the  future." 
Their  consideration  in  the  near  future  was  already  the  prob- 
lem of  Lieut.-Col.  Cooke;  for  Reid's  force,   after  retiring 


252  JOHN  BROWN 

to  Missouri,  was  again  being  recruited  for  a  fresh  and  final 
attack  on  Lawrence.  Meanwhile,  the  Free  State  men  were 
Cooke's  immediate  care.  Lane,  still  pretending  to  be  "Joe 
Cook,"  had  made  a  weak  effort  to  pursue  Reid,  but  had  fallen 
back  just  as  he  arrived  within  striking  distance.  Then,  on 
learning  that  Marshal  Donaldson  and  two  deputies,  supported 
by  bands  of  bogus  militia,  were  raiding  Free  State  homes 
with  warrants  for  the  owners,  and  burning  their  houses  if 
the  owners  were  absent,  Lane  and  Colonel  Harvey  decided 
to  march  upon  Lecompton,  make  an  armed  demonstration, 
and  demand  the  release  of  the  newest  prisoners  and  of  those 
who  had  been  arrested  in  August  for  complicity  in  the  raid  on 
Franklin.  '. 

After  some  marching  and  counter-marching,  a  force  from 
Lawrence  under  Lane  —  who  had  concealed  himself  in  the 
ranks  —  and  Captain  Samuel  Walker  arrived  at  Lecompton 
on  September  5,  late  in  the  afternoon.  Lieut.-Col.  Cooke 
instantly  ordered  out  his  regiment,  took  up  a  position  be- 
tween Walker's  men  and  the  town,  and  notified  Walker  that 
he  could  fight  that  day  only  with  United  States  troops."  For 
this  privilege  the  Free  State  men  were  not  thirsting ;  but,  with 
the  aid  of  the  veteran  dragoon  colonel,  they  accomplished  the 
release  of  the  prisoners.  Woodson  had  already  decided  to  let 
them  go,  but  his  order,  not  yet  executed,  was  now  put  into 
force.  As  the  Missouri  militia  had  been  dismissed  by  Wood- 
son that  morning  and  had  almost  all  left,  Lieut.-Col.  Cooke 
greatly  regretted  the  appearance  of  Lane's  men;  he  assured 
them  that  "everything  was  going  in  their  favor,  and  that  it 
apparently  would  be  so  if  they  would  refrain  entirely  from 
reprisals,  or  any  outrages,  return  to  their  occupations,  and 
show  moderation."  ** 

This  good  advice  the  Free  State  men  refused  to  take.  On 
returning  to  Lawrence,  they  found  it  full  of  refugees  from 
Leavenworth,  where  William  Phillips,  the  Free  State  lawyer 
who  was  tarred  and  feathered  in  May,  1855,  had  been  deliber- 
ately murdered  on  September  2,  as  a  result  of  the  election  for 
mayor.  From  elsewhere  in  the  Territory  the  law-abiding  and 
the  lawless  were  also  moving  into  Lawrence,  and  to  all  of  them 
the  refugees  from  Leavenworth,  with  their  stories  of  the  shoot- 
ing of  PhilHps  in  his  own  house,  of  murders  and  other  out- 


THE  FOE  IN  THE  FIELD  253 

rages  along  the  roads,  and  the  driving  out  of  hundreds  of 
defenceless  women  and  children,  made  a  strong  appeal.  At  a 
council  of  war  on  September  7,  Lane,  Harvey  and  other  officers 
and  men  of  the  Free  State  forces  decided  to  march  on  Leaven- 
worth. This  council  was  interrupted  by  the  cheering  on  the 
streets  with  which  John  Brown's  arrival  in  Lawrence  was 
greeted.  Henry  Reisner,  of  Topeka,  an  eye-witness,  remembers 
distinctly  Brown's  impassive  demeanor  and  his  bent  figure 
on  his  gray  horse,  with  his  gun  across  the  saddle  before 
him.  The  uproar  of  cheering  was,  he  says,  "as  great  as  if  the 
President  had  come  to  town,  but  John  Brown  seemed  not 
to  hear  it  and  paid  not  the  slightest  attention."  "  Brown 
brought  with  him  his  sick  adherent,  Luke  F.  Parsons,  and 
was  followed  the  next  day  by  his  son  Jason.  When  asked 
where  he  had  been  since  his  retreat  under  Reid's  fire  across 
the  Marais  des  Cygnes  at  Osawatomie,  he  related  that  he  had 
encamped  on  the  Hauser  farm,  two  and  a  half  miles  from  Osa- 
watomie, for  about  a  week,  at  first  attempting  to  fortify  it. 
But  the  lack  of  men  and  the  illness  of  Parsons  and  others 
prevented.^* 

From  there  Jason  Brown  and  his  father  both  went  to  their 
friend  Ottawa  Jones,  on  Ottawa  Creek,  where  they  saw  the 
ruins  of  his  home.  Jones,  who  was  an  educated  Indian,  with 
a  New  England  woman  for  his  wife,  had  befriended  and 
helped  to  feed  John  Brown  and  his  party  while  they  were 
in  the  brush  before  and  after  Black  Jack.  No  other  charge 
could  have  been  brought  against  him  than  friendliness  for 
Free  State  people ;  but  a  part  of  Atchison's  army,  guided  by 
Henry  Sherman,*  not  only  destroyed  the  house  the  evening 
of  the  battle  at  Osawatomie,  but  robbed  Mrs.  Jones  of  every- 
thing valuable.  Not  content  with  that,  they  partially  cut 
the  throat  of  a  helpless  man,  Nathaniel  Parker,  who  was  ill 
in  an  upstairs  room,  and  threw  him  over  the  bank  of  the 
creek. 

It  is  easy  to  imagine  John  Brown's  indignation  at  this  out- 
rage; but  there  was  nothing  to  be  accomplished  now  south  of 
Lawrence,  and  so,  placing  Parsons  in  a  wagon,  he  had  driven 

*  "Henry  Sherman  led  the  mob  that  burnt  Ottawa  Jones's  house  last  summer 
and  tried  to  kill  Jones."  —  Rev.  S.  L.  Adair  to  Mr.  and  Mrs.  S.  C.  Davis,  Osa- 
watomie, March  4,  1857-  —Original  in  possession  of  Mrs.  S.  C.  Davis. 


254  JOHN  BROWN 

with  him  to  Lawrence.  After  Brown's  arrival,  the  Sunday 
morning  council  reassembled  and  decided  on  the  movement 
against  Leavenworth,  Most  of  the  men  thereupon  offered  the 
command  to  John  Brown, —  a  responsibility  he  declined  out 
of  deference  to  the  other  leaders ;  and  it  was  then  entrusted 
to  Colonel  James  A.  Harvey.  With  two  companies,  Harvey 
marched  on  Easton  and  Alexandria,  in  Leavenworth  County, 
helped  himself  to  pro-slavery  provisions  in  the  now  approved 
fashion,  and  then  captured  a  small  company  of  pro-slavery 
men  on  Slough  Creek,  near  what  is  now  Oskaloosa.  John 
Brown  did  not  accompany  the  command,  which  never  reached 
Leavenworth ;  it  was  recalled  by  a  message  from  Lane,  advis- 
ing the  abandonment  of  the  object  because  of  the  arrival  of 
the  new  Governor,  John  W.  Geary.  Almost  simultaneously 
with  Harvey's  movements,  Charles  Whipple,  better  known  as 
Aaron  D.  Stevens,  raided  Osawkee,  a  pro-slavery  settlement, 
taking  eighty  horses  and  nearly  as  many  arms.  Stevens  was 
now  colonel  of  the  "Second  Regiment  Kansas  Volunteers." 
"We  in  Kansas,"  he  wrote  to  his  brother  about  this  time, 
"have  struggled  against  every  species  of  oppression  that  the 
wickedness  of  man  invented  or  the  power  of  the  Devil  ever 
enforced."  *'  Carrying  off  eighty  pro-slavery  horses  was  in  his 
eyes  no  wrong;  the  United  States  marshal,  Donaldson,  thought 
differently,  and  seven  days  after  the  raid,  on  September  17, 
he  arrested  twelve  of  Whipple's  men.«^  Four  of  them,  includ- 
ing John  H.  Kagi,  who  met  his  end  at  Harper's  Ferry  under 
Brown,  were  committed  by  Judge  Cato  for  highway  robbery, 
—  an  action  they  doubtless  described  as  another  Border  Ruf- 
fian outrage.  "What  in  thunder,"  wrote  Charles  F.  Gilman, 
a  Council  Grove,  Kansas,  leader,  on  hearing  of  some  of  these 
Free  State  raids,  "is  Missouri  doing;  is  she  going  to  let  these 
miserable,  thieving,  lying  Nigger-Stealers  and  horsewhipping 
scamps  take  this  fine  Territory  without  striking  a  blow  for  its 
deliverance?"  ^^ 

September  10  witnessed  the  reunion  of  John  Brown  with 
his  long  imprisoned  son  and  namesake,  the  political  prisoners 
being  then  freed.  John  Brown,  Jr.,  who  had  never  even  been 
indicted,  was  released  on  one  thousand  dollars  bail,  and  hurried 
at  once  to  Lawrence.  ' '  This  evening,' '  wrote  the  correspondent 
of  the  New  York  Times,  "large  numbers  assembled  in  front 


THE  FOE  IN  THE  FIELD  255 

of  General  Lane's  headquarters,  where  they  were  ad4ressed 
by  Judge  Smith,  the  Rev.  Dr.  Nute,  E.  B.  Whitman,  Gov- 
ernor Robinson,  General  Lane  and  John  Brown.  The  meet- 
ing was  one  of  the  most  enthusiastic  and  heart-cheering  of 
any  that  has  ever  been  held  in  Kansas."  "•  John  Brown,  Jr., 
brought  his  chains,  worn  bright  by  long  use,  with  him ;  they 
were  subsequently  forwarded  to  Henry  Ward  Beecher  as  a 
souvenir  of  Bleeding  Kansas.  But  a  better  era  than  the  Ter- 
ritory had  yet  known  was  now  ushered  in  with  the  arrival  of 
John  W.  Geary,  the  new  Governor.  He  reached  Lecompton 
from  Leavenworth  at  about  the  same  time  that  the  Lawrence 
jubilation  over  the  release  of  the  prisoners  was  at  an  end.  The 
next  day  he  issued  a  reassuring  address  to  the  people,  and 
two  excellent  proclamations,  which,  like  his  first  report  of 
September  9  to  Secretary  Marcy,  show  how  clearly  he  grasped 
the  actual  situation.'^  In  his  address  he  urged  that  Kansas 
begin  anew;  that  the  past  be  buried  in  oblivion. 

"  Men  of  the  North  —  men  of  the  South  —  of  the  East  and  of  the 
West  in  Kansas  —  you,  and  you  alone,"  he  said,  "have  the  remedies 
in  your  own  hands.  Will  you  not  suspend  fratricidal  strife?  Will 
you  not  cease  to  regard  each  other  as  enemies,  and  look  upon  one 
another  as  the  children  of  a  common  mother,  and  come  and  reason 
together?" 

The  blame  for  the  situation  he  placed  upon  "  men  outside 
of  the  Territory,  who  .  .  .  have  endeavored  to  stir  up  in- 
ternal strife,  and  to  array  brother  against  brother."  In  his 
first  proclamation  he  ordered  the  complete  disbandment  of 
the  pro-slavery  militia;  in  the  other  he  ordered  the  forma- 
tion of  a  new  body,  which  he  intended  should  be  composed 
of  bona  fide  settlers,  and  be  mustered  by  his  order  into  the 
service  of  the  United  States.  His  policy  was,  first  of  all,  to 
stop  all  lawlessness  and  guerrilla  warfare,  and  in  this  he  was 
soon  successful.  He  was  as  bitter  against  the  pro-slavery 
murderers  of  Leavenworth  as  against  the  Abolition  ma- 
rauders of  the  Whipple  type,  and  became,  as  time  went  on, 
more  and  more  favorable  to  the  Free  State  side,  with  the 
result  that  he  finally  resigned  office  for  the  reason  that  the 
Buchanan  administration,  alienated  by  his  friendliness  to  the 
Northern  side,  withdrew  from  him  its  support. 


256  JOHN  BROWN 

'  One  of  the  immediate  blessings  of  Governor  Geary's  arrival 
was  the  prompt  disappearance  from  the  scene  of  General 
Lane.  He  left  for  Nebraska  at  once,  with  a  small  band, 
stopping  on  the  way,  however,  to  attack  some  pro-slavery 
raiders.  Finding  them  well  barricaded  in  log-cabins  at 
Hickory  Point,  Lane  sent  back  to  Topeka  for  reinforcements. 
Whipple  and  fifty  men  responded,  but  on  their  arrival,  Lane 
wanted  Captain  Bickerton's  cannon  and  sent  to  Lawrence  for 
them.  Colonel  Harvey,  just  in  from  Slough  Creek,  and  about 
two  hundred  men  responded,  and  arrived  at  Hickory  Point 
on  Sunday  morning,  September  14.  Meanwhile,  General 
Lane  abandoned  the  siege  on  hearing  of  Governor  Geary's 
proclamations.  As  Harvey's  men  came  straight  across  coun- 
try, contrary  to  orders,  they  missed  both  Lane  and  Whipple. 
Nevertheless,  they  at  once  attacked  the  pro-slavery  force, 
and  after  several  hours  of  fighting  captured  it,  killing  one 
and  wounding  four,  and  having  five  wounded  on  their  side." 
Both  sides  fraternized,  agreed  to  retire  without  plunder,  and 
then  separated.  But  Harvey's  Nemesis  was  at  hand  in  the 
person  of  the  Captain  T.  J.  Wood  already  referred  to,  who 
appeared  on  the  scene  that  night  with  two  troops  of  the  First 
Cavalry  and  a  deputy  marshal,  with  whom  he  had  been  search- 
ing for  Whipple's  band.  Harvey  escaped,  but  Captain  Wood 
returned  to  Lecompton  with  one  hundred  and  one  prisoners 
and  such  of  their  arms  as  he  could  find,  including  the  cannon. 
The  prisoners  were  shown  no  favors,  were  all  kept  in  confine- 
ment for  some  time,  and,  after  enduring  genuine  hardships, 
were  tried  at  the  October  term.  The  majority  were  acquit- 
ted ;  a  number  received  sentences  at  hard  labor,  with  ball  and 
chain,  for  periods  of  from  five  to  ten  years.  With  the  men 
of  Whipple's  force  and  others,  there  were  now  one  hundred 
and  eighteen  Free  State  men  awaiting  trial  at  one  time,— 
quite  enough  to  serve  as  a  vigorous  deterrent  to  the  other 
Free  Soilers.  John  Brown  might  easily  have  shared  their  fate. 
Those  sentenced  did  not,  however,  remain  in  jail  long;  they 
had  all  escaped  or  been  pardoned  by  the  following  March.  But 
Captain  Wood's  great  haul  was  a  stunning  blow  to  Free  State 
lawlessness. 

Governor  Geary  made  his  first  visit  to  Lawrence  on  Septem- 
ber 13.   News  having  been  received  by  him  that  pro-slavery 


THE  FOE  IN  THE  FIELD  257 

forces  were  threatening  the  town,  he  routed  out  Lieut.-Col. 
Cooke's  troops  in  the  early  morning  of  September  13."  Four 
hundred  soldiers  left  at  2.20  a.  m.,  the  governor  going  with 
them,  and  they  arrived  at  Lawrence  at  sunrise  to  find  every- 
thing quiet.  Three  hundred  Missourians  had,  however,  been 
seen  the  day  before,  and  Governor  Geary  had  received  a 
communication  from  General  Heiskell,  announcing  that  in 
response  to  acting  Governor  Woodson  he  was  on  Mission 
Creek  with  eight  hundred  men,  "ready  for  duty  and  impa- 
tient to  act."  Governor  Geary  found  between  two  and  three 
hundred  men  in  Lawrence  and,  being  well  received,  addressed 
them  earnestly  and  then  conversed  at  length  with  Governor 
Robinson  and  other  leaders,  upon  whom  he  made  a  favora- 
ble impression.  John  Brown  was  not  at  these  gatherings.  By 
nine  o'clock  the  Governor  and  the  troops  left  on  their  return 
to  Lecompton,  the  citizens  giving  three  hearty  cheers  for 
Governor  Geary  and  Lieut.-Col.  Cooke  as  they  rode  away. 
The  very  next  evening,  on  September  14,  Geary  again  ordered 
all  of  Lieut.-Col.  Cooke's  troops  to  Lawrence  in  hot  haste, 
to  prevent  an  impending  collision.'*  They  left  at  once  under 
Lieut.-Col.  Joseph  E.  Johnston,  First  Cavalry,  later  the 
distinguished  Confederate  general.  The  next  morning  Lieut.- 
Col.  Cooke  and  Governor  Geary  followed.  This  time  it  had 
been  no  cry  of  wolf.  Atchison,  Reid,  Heiskell,  Stringfellow, 
Whitfield  and  the  other  Missouri  leaders  had  arrived  at 
Franklin,  determined  on  a  final  attempt  to  conquer  Kansas  by 
force  of  arms.  They  had  with  them  no  less  than  twenty-seven 
hundred  men,  some  of  them  completely  uniformed  and  well 
equipped.  Besides  infantry  and  cavalry  there  was  a  six- 
pounder  battery,  —  in  all  a  remarkably  strong  force.  Its  ad- 
vance guard  had  come  in  sight  of  the  men  on  guard  at  Law- 
rence on  the  afternoon  of  the  14th,  and  after  an  hour's 
shooting  at  long  range,  the  Missourians  had  retired  on  Frank- 
lin. Naturally,  the  people  of  Lawrence  were  in  great  alarm ; 
few  were  able  to  sleep  that  night,  remembering  as  they  did 
Atchison's  last  visit  to  their  town.  There  was,  therefore, 
general  rejoicing  when,  on  the  next  morning,  Lieut.-Col. 
Johnston's  troops  were  found  to  be  encamped  on  Mount 
Oread,  the  hill  overlooking  Lawrence,  where  they  had  ar- 
rived during  the  night. 


258  JOHN  BROWN 

The  town  of  Lawrence  was  at  this  time  a  strange  mixture 
of  "stone  houses,  log  cabins,  frame  buildings,  shake  shanties 
and  other  nondescript  erections,"  so  wrote  Colonel  Richard 
J.  Hinton  in  his  journal  on  September  3.'*    He  added: 

"Lawrence  presents  a  sad  picture  of  the  evils  this  partizan  war- 
fare is  bringing  over  us.  Buildings  half  finished  or  deserted  are  now 
occupied  as  quarters  for  the  small  army  of  devoted  men  who  are 
fighting  the  battle  of  Freedom.  Trade  is  at  a  standstill.  Work  is 
not  thought  of,  and  the  street  is  full  of  the  eager,  anxious  citizens 
who  cluster  eagerly  around  every  new-comer,  drinking  in  greedily 
the  news,  which  generally  is  exaggerated  by  the  fears  or  imagination 
of  those  who  tell  it.  To  a  stranger,  it  seems  a  wild  confusion,  and 
however  much  they  may  desire,  the  incidents  come  in  so  fast  that 
it  is  morally  impossible  to  form  a  just  estimate  of  the  true  condition 
of  things." 

The  defenders  of  this  straggling  town  had  erected  some  for- 
tifications, of  which  they  were  very  proud,  a  stone  "fort"  of 
the  remains  of  the  Free  State  Hotel,  and  four  earthworks 
which  excited  the  risibles  of  Lieut.-Col.  Cooke  and  his  officers, 
—  "ridiculous  attempts  at  defences,"  Cooke  officially  called 
them,  "which  I  could  ride  over."  But  the  day  before  Lieut.- 
Col.  Johnston's  arrival,  these  amateur  fortifications  were 
filled  with  very  earnest  Free  Soil  men,  ready  to  defend  Law- 
rence at  any  cost.  In  the  absence  of  Lane,  the  command  was  as 
much  in  the  hands  of  Major  J.  B.  Abbott  and  Captain  Joseph 
Cracklin,  of  the  "Stubbs,"  as  of  any  one  else.  Some  partisans 
of  John  Brown  have  attempted  to  prove  that  he  was  in  com- 
mand, but  the  evidence  is  conclusive  that  he  declined  Major 
Abbott's  offer  of  the  command  of  a  company,  and  then,  at  his 
request,  went  from  one  of  the  "forts"  to  another, encouraging 
the  men,  urging  them  to  fire  low,  and  giving  them  such  mili- 
tary information  as  was  his,  everywhere,  according  to  Major 
Abbott,  with  excellent  results.'^  Other  men  who  were  in  the 
forts  that  day,  when  Captain  Cracklin  and  his  "Stubbs" 
returned  the  long  range  fire  of  the  Border  Ruffians,  have  tes- 
tified to  the  value  of  Brown's  presence,  and  the  inspiration  he 
gave  them.  To  a  group  of  citizens  in  the  main  street  he  made 
the  following  address,  standing  on  a  dry-goods  box: 

"Gentlemen — It  is  said  there  are  twenty-five  hundred  Mis- 
sourians  down  at  Franklin,  and  that  they  will  be  here  in  two  hours. 


THE  FOE  IN  THE  FIELD  259 

You  can  see  for  yourselves  the  smoke  they  are  making  by  setting 
fire  to  the  houses  in  that  town.  This  is  probably  the  last  opportu- 
nity you  will  have  of  seeing  a  fight,  so  that  you  had  better  do  your 
best.  If  they  should  come  up  and  attack  us,  don't  yell  and  make 
a  great  noise,  but  remain  perfectly  silent  and  still.  Wait  till  they 
get  within  twenty-five  yards  of  you,  get  a  good  object,  be  sure  you 
see  the  hind  sight  of  your  gun,  then  fire.  A  great  deal  of  powder 
and  lead  and  very  precious  time  is  wasted  by  shooting  too  high. 
You  had  better  aim  at  their  legs  than  at  their  heads.  In  either  case, 
be  sure  of  the  hind  sight  of  your  gun.  It  is  for  this  reason  that  I 
myself  have  so  many  times  escaped,  for,  if  all  the  bullets  which  have 
ever  been  aimed  at  me  had  hit  me  I  would  have  been  as  full  of  holes 
as  a  riddle." '' 

Fortunately  for  all  concerned,  the  worth  of  the  forts  and  the 
mettle  of  their  defenders  were  never  tested.  The  aggressive 
and  active  Governor  rode  into  town  with  Lieut.-Col.  Cooke 
at  ten  on  the  morning  of  the  15th.  They  found  that  Lieut.- 
Col.  Johnston  had  distributed  his  men  in  strong  positions 
on  the  outskirts  of  the  town.  Scarcely  stopping  to  confer 
with  that  officer,  Cooke  and  Geary  pushed  right  on  to  meet 
a  Missourian  mounted  company  then  in  plain  sight,  not 
two  miles  away.  This  company  at  once  constituted  itself  a 
guard  of  honor  for  the  colonel  and  the  Governor.  At  Franklin 
the  pro-slavery  generals  and  chief  officers  were  called  together 
in  a  large  room  "and  very  ably  and  effectively  addressed  by 
Governor  Geary  "  —  so  Cooke  reported.  After  some  inflamma- 
tory speeches  from  the  other  side,  the  veteran  dragoon  himself 
addressed  the  assembly,  urging  them, 

"as  an  old  resident  of  Kansas  and  friend  to  the  Missourians  to  sub- 
mit to  the  patriotic  demand  that  they  should  return,  assuring  them 
of  my  perfect  confidence  in  the  inflexible  justice  of  the  Governor, 
and  that  it  would  become  my  painful  duty  to  sustain  him  at  the 
cannon's  mouth.  Authority  prevailed,  and  the  militia  honorably 
submitted  to  march  off,  to  be  disbanded  at  their  place  of  rendez- 
vous." 

It  would  have  been  well,  however,  if  some  of  Cooke's  men 
had  supervised  this  withdrawal.  He  himself  went  back  to 
Lawrence  with  the  Governor  and  calmed  the  greatly  excited 
town,  while  Governor  Geary  again  addressed  the  principal 
men.  They  bivouacked  with  the  troops,  who  slept  under 
arms  after  two  night  marches  with  scant  provisions.  The  next 


260  JOHN  BROWN 

day,  Cooke  and  the  Governor  returned  to  Lecompton,  following 
the  trail  of  the  notorious  Kickapoo  Rangers.  Some  of  these 
men  had  burned  the  saw-mill  near  Franklin,  "lifted"  horses 
and  cattle,  and  mortally  wounded  David  C.  Buffum,  for  refus- 
ing to  give  up  the  horse  with  which  he  was  ploughing.  Gov- 
ernor Geary  insisted  on  Judge  Cato's  taking  the  dying  man's 
deposition,  and,  to  his  credit  be  it  said,  made  every  effort, 
though  with  little  success,  to  have  the  murderer  punished,  the 
pro-slavery  judges  giving  no  assistance.'^ 

Thus  ended  the  last  organized  Missourian  invasion  of 
Kansas,  and  for  a  time  thereafter  the  Territory  was  at  peace, 
particularly  as  Lieut.-Cols.  Cooke  and  Johnston  were  active 
in  capturing  armed  Free  Soil  men  coming  in  from  Iowa.  They 
took  prisoners  on  October  9,  for  instance,  two  hundred  and 
twenty-three  armed  immigrants,  headed  by  S.  C.  Pomeroy, 
Colonel  Eldredge  and  others."  By  November  12  the  Gov- 
ernor of  Kansas  announced  to  General  Smith,  commanding 
the  Department  of  the  West,  that  peace  prevailed  throughout 
the  Territory,  for  which  fact  Governor  Geary  deserves  great 
credit.  In  consideration  of  these  conditions  and  of  the  ap- 
proach of  winter,  all  the  regular  troops,  with  the  exception  of 
two  companies,  returned  to  their  regular  stations.'" 

The  disbandment  of  Atchison's  army  was  a  fatal  blow  to  the 
hopes  of  the  Missourians,  and  in  the  South  generally  it  was 
now  beginning  to  be  understood  that  the  battle  for  Kansas 
was  rapidly  being  lost.  Even  before  Atchison's  disbandment, 
an  intelligent  South  Carolinian,  member  of  the  Territorial 
militia,  writing  home  in  a  moment  of  anger  at  the  release  of  the 
Free  State  prisoners  in  the  presence  of  Lane's  and  Harvey's 
men  at  Lecompton,  blurted  out  the  truth  about  the  useless- 
ness  of  those  Southerners  remaining  who  had  come  merely  to 
battle: 

"And  why  should  we  remain?  We  cannot  fight,  and  of  course 
cannot  prevent  our  enemy  from  voting.  The  object  of  our  mission 
will  then,  of  course,  be  defeated,  and  we  had  as  well  return.  Which- 
ever way  the  Kansas  question  be  decided,  'tis  my  opinion,  and  the 
opinion  with  all  with  whom  I  have  conversed,  that  a  dissolution 
of  the  Union  will  be  effected  by  it.  The  Abolitionists  themselves 
say  they  'will  have  Kansas  if  it  splits  the  Union  into  a  thousand 
pieces.'"" 


THE  FOE  IN  THE  FIELD  261 

Not  even  the  abstention  of  the  Free  State  men  from  the  elec- 
tion of  October  6  for  delegate  to  Congress,  for  members  of 
the  Legislature,  and  on  the  question  of  a  Constitutional  con- 
vention, and  the  consequent  election  of  Whitfield  and  other 
pro-slavery  men,  raised  any  genuine  hopes  in  the  hearts  of  the 
slavery  leaders. 

The  restoration  of  peace,  the  release  of  his  son  and  the 
approach  of  winter  were  the  reasons  why  John  Brown  decided 
to  leave  Kansas  for  the  East  in  search  of  rest  and  additional 
funds  to  carry  on  the  war  for  freedom.  He  had  never  meant 
to  be  a  settler,  and  there  was  nothing  left  to  take  him  or  his 
sons  back  to  Osawatomie.  Their  cabins,  such  as  they  were, 
had  been  destroyed,  and  with  them  all  their  personal  property, 
and  the  books  of  John  Brown,  Jr.,  upon  which  he  placed  a 
value  of  three  hundred  dollars.  This  son  thought  that  to  pre- 
serve his  reason  he  must  return  to  a  placid  life  and  quiet 
scenes.'^  John  Brown  himself,  suffering  from  the  prevailing 
dysentery  and  chills  and  fever,  was  compelled  to  leave  in  a 
wagon.  He  wrote  to  his  family,  however,  that  he  would 
return  to  Kansas  if  the  troubles  continued.*'  With  him  into 
Iowa  went  his  three  sons,  John,  Jason  and  Owen,  while  his 
two  daughters-in-law  and  their  little  sons  took  the  river  route, 
now  open  to  Free  Soil  traffic  of  this  kind. 

On  departing  from  the  Territory,  Brown  left  the  remainder 
of  his  Osawatomie  "volunteer-regular"  company  under  the 
command  of  James  H.  Holmes,  with  instructions  to  "carry 
the  war  into  Africa."  This  Holmes  did  by  raiding  into  Mis- 
souri and  appropriating  some  horses  and  arms  and  other 
property,  for  which  he  was  promptly  and  properly  indicted 
and  long  pursued  by  the  Kansas  and  Missouri  authorities." 
By  October  10,  John  Brown  and  his  sons  were  safely  at 
Tabor,  after  a  very  narrow  escape  from  the  vigilant  Lieut.- 
Col.  Cooke,  who,  reporting  on  October  7  from  a  "camp  near 
Nebraska  boundary,"  wrote:  "I  arrived  here  yesterday,  at 
noon.  I  just  missed  the  arrest  of  the  notorious  Osawatomie 
outlaw,  Brown.  The  night  before,  having  ascertained  that 
after  dark  he  had  stopped  for  the  night  at  a  house  six  miles 
from  the  camp,  I  sent  a  party  who  found  at  12  o'clock  that 
he  had  gone.""  Evidently,  Lieut.-Col.  Cooke  was  not  aware 
of  Osawatomie  Brown's  presence  at  Lawrence  when  he  was 


262  JOHN  BROWN 

there;  nor  did  he  know  of  the  "outlaw's"  other  narrow  es- 
capes from  capture.  One  of  these  incidents  of  the  return  from 
Kansas  is  thus  related  by  Jason  Brown :     ^  ^ 

"We  crossed  the  river  at  Topeka.  We  had  a  four-mule  team, 
and  a  one-horse  covered  wagon.  The  mule  team  was  full  of  arms 
and  ammunition  that  father  was  taking  out  to  Tabor.  I  cannot 
remember  just  now  the  name  of  the  driver,  but  he  was  a  man 
who  was  always  faithful  to  us  and  had  stuck  to  us  right  through. 
In  the  covered,  one-horse  team  was  a  fugitive  slave,  covered  over 
with  hay,  father,  lying  sick,  Owen,  John  and  I.  Owen,  John  and  I 
walked  all  we  could  to  save  the  horse.  At  New  Holton  we  came 
out  on  a  high  prairie  and  saw  the  U.  S.  troops  —  a  large  body  — 
encamped  on  the  stream  below.  When  John  and  I  saw  that,  we 
thought  we  had  fallen  into  a  trap.  '  We  '11  go  right  down  there,'  said 
father.  'If  we  do,'  said  John,  'we'll  be  captured.  I  for  one  won't 
go.'  'I,  for  another,  won't  go,'  said  I.  So  father  drove  right  on 
down,  and  camped  just  outside  their  pickets,  that  night.  But  before 
he  got  within  two  miles  of  that  camp  of  troops,  John  and  I  left  him, 
—  it  was  dark  —  and  walked  about  six  or  eight  miles  —  I  am  not 
sure  of  the  distance  —  around  —  and  met  father  next  morning, 
about  sunrise  on  the  Nebraska  road.  Owen,  as  always,  stuck  with 
father.  For  a  time  we  and  father  travelled  different  roads  and  did 
not  meet.  We  finally  got  both  wagons  together  at  the  ferry  at 
Nebraska  City  and  camped.  Next  morning  we  crossed  the  river, 
by  rope  ferry,  into  the  southwest  corner  of  Iowa.  When  we  landed 
we  let  the  contraband  out  from  the  hay,  fixed  him  up  the  best  we 
could,  and  travelled  on  to  Tabor.  There  Owen  stopped,  and  the 
negro  there  found  work.  John  and  I  had  the  horse  to  go  to  Iowa 
City  with.  We  rode  and  tied,  to  that  point,  where  the  railway 
began."*" 

Before  leaving  Lawrence,  John  Brown  received  two  letters 
from  Charles  Robinson,  both  of  them  of  special  interest  be- 
cause of  the  Governor's  subsequent  attacks  upon  Brown  in  the 
never-ending  and  extremely  bitter  controversy  as  to  whether 
Brown  or  Lane  or  Robinson  was  the  real  saviour  of  Kansas: 

Lawrence,  Sept.  15,  1856. 

Capt.  John  Brown:  My  Dear  Sir:  —  I  take  this  opportunity 
to  express  to  you  my  sincere  gratification  that  the  late  report  that 
you  were  among  the  killed  at  the  battle  of  Osawatomie  is  incorrect. 

Your  course,  so  far  as  I  have  been  informed,  has  been  such  as  to 
merit  the  highest  praise  from  every  patriot,  and  I  cheerfully  accord 
to  you  my  heartfelt  thanks  for  your  prompt,  efficient  and  timely 
action  against  the  invaders  of  our  rights  and  the  murderers  of  our 
citizens.   History  will  give  your  name  a  proud  place  on  her  pages, 


THE  FOE  IN  THE  FIELD  263 

and  posterity  will  pay  homage  to  your  heroism  in  the  cause  of  God 
and  Humanity. 

Trusting  that  you  will  conclude  to  remain  in  Kansas  and  serve 
during  the  war  the  cause  you  have  done  so  much  to  sustain,  and 
with  earnest  prayers  for  your  health  and  protection  from  the  shafts 
of  Death  that  so  thickly  beset  your  path,  I  subscribe  myself, 
Very  respectfully 

Your  Ob't  Servant 

C.  Robinson." 

The  other  letter,  dated  earlier,  reads  as  follows : 

Lawrence,  Sept  13,  '56 
Capt.  Brown 
Dear  Sir 

Gov  Geary  has  been  here  and  talks  very  well.  He  promises  to 
protect  us,  etc.,  etc.  There  will  be  no  attempt  to  arrest  anyone  for 
a  few  days,  and  I  think  no  attempt  to  arrest  you  is  contemplated 
by  him.  He  talks  of  letting  the  past  be  forgotten  so  far  as  may  be 
and  of  commencing  anew. 

If  convenient  can  you  not  come  into  town  and  see  us.  I  will  then 
tell  you  all  that  the  Gov.  said  and  talk  of  some  other  matters. 
Very  respectfully 

C.  Robinson  *' 

On  the  back  of  this  note  is  a  pencilled  memorandum  of 
John  Brown,  Jr.,  to  his  father,  which  includes  among  other 
advice  these  words:  "Don't  go  into  that  secret  military 
refugee  plan  talked  of  by  Robinson,  I  beg  of  you."  Over  this 
letter  and  sentence  there  was  a  vitriolic  controversy  between 
John  Brown,  Jr.,  and  Governor  Robinson  in  1883  and  1884, 
the  former  insisting  that  at  the  private  meeting  requested,  the 
Governor  asked  Brown  to  undertake  the  kidnapping  of  the 
leading  pro-slavery  generals,  and  the  doing  away  of  others  in 
Pottawatomie  fashion,  and  that  his  father  replied:  "If  you 
know  of  any  job  of  that  sort  that  needs  to  be  done,  I  advise 
you  to  do  it  yourself."  *'  No  one  else  has  publicly  accused 
Governor  Robinson  of  sinking  quite  to  the  depths  of  urging 
deliberate  assassination,  and  it  is  needless  to  say  that  he  in- 
dignantly denied  the  charge.  Those  who  would  decide  where 
the  truth  lies  must  make  up  their  minds  which  man's  word 
was  the  weightier. 

Free  from  any  other  blood-stain,  John  Brown  quitted  the 
ravaged  Territory.    If  he  had  deliberately  committed  the 


264  JOHN  BROWN 

Pottawatomie  murders  in  order  to  embroil  Kansans  and  Mis- 
sourians,  he  had  every  reason  to  view  with  satisfaction  the 
results  of  his  bloody  deed.  The  carnival  of  crime  and  the  civil 
war  inaugurated  by  the  sacking  of  Lawrence  and  the  midnight 
assassinations  in  the  hitherto  peaceful  region  of  Osawatomie, 
had  brought  eastern  Kansas  to  the  lowest  state  of  her  for- 
tunes. Governor  Geary  accurately  portrayed  it  in  his  farewell 
to  the  people  of  Kansas  on  March  12  of  the  next  year: 

"  I  reached  Kansas  and  entered  upon  the  discharge  of  my  official 
duties  in  the  most  gloomy  hour  of  her  history.  Desolation  and  ruin 
reigned  on  every  hand ;  homes  and  firesides  were  deserted ;  the  smoke 
of  burning  dwellings  darkened  the  atmosphere;  women  and  chil- 
dren, driven  from  their  habitations,  wandered  over  the  prairies  and 
among  the  woodland,  or  sought  refuge  and  protection  even  among 
the  Indian  tribes ;  the  highways  were  infested  with  numerous  preda- 
tory bands,  and  the  towns  were  fortified  and  garrisoned  by  armies 
of  conflicting  partisans,  each  excited  almost  to  frenzy,  and  deter- 
mined upon  mutual  extermination.  Such  was,  without  exaggera- 
tion, the  condition  of  the  Territory  at  the  period  of  my  arrival.'"" 

Between  November  i,  1855,  and  December  i,  1856,  about 
two  hundred  people  are  known  to  have  lost  their  lives  in  the 
anarchical  conditions  that  prevailed,  and  the  property  loss  in 
this  period  is  officially  set  down  at  not  less  than  two  millions 
of  dollars,  one  half  of  which  was  sustained  by  bona  fide  settlers, 
the  larger  portion  falling  on  the  Free  State  emigrants.'^  How- 
ever superior  in  character  and  intelligence  and  industry  the 
latter  indubitably  were  in  the  beginning,  there  was  but  little 
to  choose  between  the  Border  Ruffians  and  the  Kansas  Ruf- 
fians in  midsummer  of  1856.  The  Whipples  and  Harveys  and 
Browns  plundered  and  robbed  as  freely  on  one  side  as  did  the 
Martin  Whites,  the  Reids  and  the  Tituses  on  the  other,  and 
there  was  not  the  slightest  difference  in  their  methods.  Both 
sides  respected  women;  but  in  remorseless  killing  of  individ- 
uals, the  Border  Ruffians  were  guilty  of  a  savagery  that  would 
place  them  far  below  the  scale  of  the  Free  Soil  men,  were  it  not 
for  the  massacre  on  the  Pottawatomie.  If  the  Eastern  press 
discreetly  refused  to  believe  a  single  Free  State  outrage,  or  to 
portray  raids  like  those  on  Franklin  in  their  true  colors,  the 
pro-slavery  partisans  met  every  charge  with  the  allegation 
that  It  was  an  "  AboHtion  lie."   In  the  eyes  of  New  England, 


THE  FOE  IN  THE  FIELD  265 

Raid's  taking  the  lives  of  Free  Soil  men  at  Osawatomie  was 
"butchery,"  while  the  exterminating  of  Border  Ruffians  was 
merely  "killing,"  —  as  John  Brown  phrased  these  incidents  in 
his  story  of  that  fight.  Probably  no  one  in  the  East  in  Octo- 
ber, 1856,  realized  the  utter  demoralization  of  the  Free  State 
men,  or  the  violence  and  lawlessness  of  their  methods.  For  this 
ignorance  the  excitement  of  the  Presidential  campaign,  which 
resulted  in  Fremont's  defeat,  may  have  been  in  part  respon- 
sible. To  many  of  the  radical  Abolitionists  in  the  East,  the 
bloodshed  in  Kansas  was  a  plain  indication  that  slavery  could 
hereafter  be  ended  only  by  the  bayonet.'^ 

It  is,  of  course,  undeniable  that  the  Border  Ruffian  outrages 
in  Kansas  enormously  aroused  the  North  on  the  slavery  ques- 
tion and  prepared  the  way  for  the  tremendous  outburst  of 
excitement  or  anger  over  the  Harper's  Ferry  raid.  But  it  is 
idle  to  assert  that  Kansas  would  never  have  been  free,  had  it 
not  weltered  in  blood  in  1856;  if  the  Sharp's  rifle  policy  had 
not  been  followed.  Climate  and  soil  fought  in  Kansas  on  the 
side  of  the  Free  State  men.  The  Southerners  themselves  com- 
plained that  their  settlers  who  did  reach  Kansas  were  inocu- 
lated with  the  virus  of  liberty,  became  Free  Soilers  and  often 
freed  their  slaves.^'  The  familiar  slave  crops  never  could  have 
been  raised  in  Kansas  with  its  bleak  winters.  Moreover,  the 
South  was  never  a  colonizing  section ;  the  history  of  the  set- 
tlement of  our  Western  communities  proves  this,  if  the  fate 
of  Buford's  band  and  its  inability  to  settle  down  anywhere 
did  not.  The  final  failure  of  the  slave-power  to  hold  the  great 
advantage  it  had  in  Kansas  in  1855  was  not  due  to  fear  of 
weapons,  but  to  inability  to  place  farmers  and  pioneers  on  the 
battle-ground.  The  wave  of  emigrants  from  the  East  was 
from  the  beginning  certain  to  roll  over  the  Kansas  plains,  even 
if  it  had  not  been  expedited  by  the  Emigrant  Aid  Societies,  to 
whom  due  credit  for  hastening  the  turning  of  the  tide  must  be 
given. 

Equally  certain  is  it  that  no  one  man  decided  the  fate  of 
Kansas.  In  this  narrative  no  effort  has  been  made  to  estimate 
the  relative  values  to  Kansas  of  Eli  Thayer,  the  founder  of  the 
Emigrant  Aid  movement,  or  of  Charles  Robinson,  or  of  James 
H.  Lane,  or  of  Brown.  It  would  be  an  invidious  undertaking; 
to  enter  into  the  bitter  disputes  of  the  partisan  followers  of 


266  JOHN  BROWN 

Robinson,  Lane  and    Brown   is  a  task  which  no  historian 
would  attempt  unless  compelled  by  his  theme  to  do  so.  Their 
adulators  have  forgotten  that  properly  to  understand  and  esti- 
mate the  forces  brought  into  play  in  Kansas,  one  must  fairly 
go  back  to  the  foundation  of  our  government.  The  irrepressi- 
ble conflict  between  freedom  and  slavery  would  have  gone  on 
and  come  to  a  head  had  Kansas  never  been  thrown  open  to 
settlement,  and  that  Territory  must  have  been  free  had  there 
been  no  Lane  and  no  Robinson  and  no  John  Brown.    The 
great  nation-stirring  movement  of  which  they  were  a  part 
can  best  be  likened  to  a  glacier;  for  decades  it  moyed  imper- 
ceptibly; suddenly  the  people  it  overshadowed  awoke  to  the 
fact  that  their  very  existence  was  threatened  by  this  mon- 
strous mass  of  prejudice  and  wrong  and  crime. 
/Of  John  Brown,  as  he  left  Kansas  after  just  a  year  of 
activity,  with  the  most  important  period  of  his  service  to  the 
Territory  behind  him,  it  may  truthfully  be  said  that  his  deeds, 
good  and  evil,  had  appealed  strongly  to  the  imagination  of 
all  who  read  of  him  sympathetically.   Like  a  relentless  High- 
land chieftain  of  old,  he  appeared  to  personify  indomitable, 
unswerving  resistance  to  the  forces  of  slavery.  To  those  Free 
Soilers  who  believed  in  the  argumentative  methods  of  the  Old 
Testament,  his  name  was  henceforth  one  to  conjure  with. 
Not  in  his  methods,  however,  but  in  his  uncompromising 
hostility  to  that  human  bondage  for  which  he  was  ready  to 
sacrifice  his  life,  lies  his  undoubted  claim  to  a  place  in  the 
■s^history  of  Kansas  and  of  the  Nation. 


CHAPTER  VIII 
NEW  FRIENDS  FOR  OLD  VISIONS 

At  Tabor,  Iowa,  John  Brown,  weak  and  ill,  met  with  a  hearty 
reception  at  the  hands  of  that  colony  of  Ohioans.  Under  the 
leadership  of  George  B.  Gaston,  for  four  years  a  missionary 
among  the  Pawnee  Indians,  and  the  Rev.  John  Todd,  there 
had  been  founded  at  Tabor,  in  1848,  a  community  which  was 
intended  to  be  another  Oberiin.i  Most  of  its  settlers  came 
from  that  earnestly  religious  and  bravely  anti-slavery  town. 
They  were  steeped  in  its  Abolition  views  and  in  sympathy 
with  its  protests  against  hyper-Calvinism,  — in  short,  brought 
with  them  the  Oberlin  devotion  to  truth  and  liberty.  It  was 
the  most  congenial  soil  upon  which  John  Brown  had  set  foot 
since  his  departure  from  Ohio.  Here  all  men  and  women 
thought  his  own  thoughts  and  spoke  his  own  words.  Though 
it  was  then  but  a  straggling  prairie  town  of  twenty-five  houses, 
with  little  of  the  present  beauty  of  its  wide  and  richly  shaded 
streets.  Tabor  was  ever  an  attractive  haven  for  John  Brown 
and  his  sons.  On  the  overland  route  into  Kansas,  it  was  far 
enough  from  the  Territory  to  be  free  from  disorder,  and  the 
arriving  and  departing  emigrant  trains  gave  it  an  especial 
interest  and  kept  it  in  touch  with  the  storm-centre  of  the 
nation.  News  from  Kansas  came  regularly,  while  the  scattered 
pro-slavery  sympathizers  in  the  neighborhood,  who  acted  as 
spies  for  the  Missourians,  or  those  who  passed  through  en 
route  to  the  Territory,  added  zest  to  the  town's  life,  particu- 
larly when  the  Southern  visitors  were  in  search  of  the  slaves 
who  passed  on  to  safety  and  freedom  by  the  underground 
route.  This  long  counted  Tabor  one  of  its  important  far  West- 
ern stations. 

Mrs.  Gaston  has  left  the  following  account  of  conditions 
in  Tabor  during  the  time  of  John  Brown's  visit: 

"That  summer  and  autumn  our  houses,  before  too  full,  were 
much  overfilled,  and  our  comforts  shared  with  those  passing  to  and 
from  Kansas  to  secure  it  to  Freedom.  When  houses  would  hold  no 


268  JOHN  BROWN 

more,  woodsheds  were  temporized  for  bedrooms,  where  the  sick 
and  dying  were  cared  for.  Barns  also  were  fixed  for  sleeping  rooms. 
Every  place  where  a  bed  could  be  put  or  a  blanket  thrown  down 
was  at  once  so  occupied.  There  were  comers  and  goers  all  times  of 
day  or  night  —  meals  at  all  hours  — many  free  hotels,  perhaps  en- 
tertaining angels  unawares.  After  battles  they  were  here  for  rest 
■ — before  for  preparation.  General  Lane  once  stayed  three  weeks 
secretly  while  it  was  reported  abroad  that  he  was  back  in  Indiana 
for  recruits  and  supplies,  which  came  ere  long,  consisting  of  all  kinds 
of  provisions,  Sharps  rifles,  powder  and  lead.  A  cannon  packed  in 
corn  made  its  way  through  the  enemy's  lines,  and  ammunition  of 
all  kinds  in  clothing  and  kitchen  furniture,  etc.,  etc.  Our  cellars 
contained  barrels  of  powder  and  boxes  of  rifles.  Often  our  chairs, 
tables,  beds  and  such  places  were  covered  with  what  weapons  every 
one  carried  about  him,  so  that  if  one  needed  and  got  time  to  rest  a 
little  in  the  day  time,  we  had  to  remove  the  Kansas  furniture,  or 
rest  with  loaded  revolvers,  cartridge  boxes  and  bowie  knives  piled 
around  them,  and  boxes  of  swords  under  the  bed."^ 


C 


Here  John  Brown  stayed  about  a  week  after  his  arrival 
from  Kansas.  Here  he  stored  the  arms  he  had  brought  with 
him,  and  this  place  he  chose  as  the  coming  headquarters  of  the 
band  of  one  hundred  "volunteer-regulars"  for  whom  he  now 
planned  to  raise  funds  in  the  East  to  the  amount  of  twenty 
thousand  dollars,  and  here  actual  training  for  war-service 
against  the  forces  of  slavery  was  soon  to  begin.  For  this  was 
the  plan  which  John  Brown's  brain  had  now  f ormiilatedtl  The 
peace  of  Geary  he  did  not  value;  indeed,  he  unjustly  de- 
nounced the  Governor  at  this  period  as  having  been  unpardon- 
ably  slow  in  reaching  Lawrence  with  the  Federal  troops,  when 
that  town  was  menaced  by  Atchison  and  Reid.  He  wanted  a 
secret  unpaid  force  that  would  subsist  as  best  it  might  between 
periods  of  activity,  but  be  ready  with  rifle,  pistol  and  sword  to 
come  together  to  repel  invasion,  or  even  to  undertake  a  coun- 
ter-invasion. If  he  rightly  judged  that  hostilities  between  the 
two  contending  parties  in  Kansas  were  not  yet  over,  he  over- 
estimated the  likelihood  of  a  fresh  outbreak  when  the  spring 
should  come  again.  By  then  he  hoped  to  return  to  Kansas 
with  plenty  of  arms  and  ammunition,  and  recruit  the  men  he 
wanted.]! 

After  his  brief  stay  for  recuperation,  John  Brown  set  out 
over  the  overland  route  to  Chicago  by  way  of  Iowa  City  and 
Springdale,  arriving  there  about  the  22d  or  23d  of  October 


MAIN   STREET   OF   TABOR,  IOWA 


THE   PUBLIC    SQUARE   AT   TABOR 


NEW   FRIENDS   FOR  OLD   VISIONS         269 

with  his  sons,  Jason  and  John  Brown,  Jr.,  who  had  preceded 
him  from  Tabor.  The  father  reported  at  once  at  the  offices  of 
the  National  Kansas  Committee,  where  his  presence  aroused 
great  interest.  He  was  soon  asked  to  accompany  the  train 
of  "freight"  for  the  Free  State  cause  then  being  conducted 
through  Iowa  to  Kansas  by  Dr.  J.  P.  Root,  in  order  to  advise 
that  leader. 

"Capt.  Brown,"  wrote  General  J.  D.  Webster  to  Dr.  Root 
on  October  25,  "says  the  immediate  introduction  of  the  sup- 
plies is  not  of  much  consequence  compared  to  the  danger  of 
losing  them."  On  the  next  day,  Horace  White,  then  assistant 
secretary  of  the  National  Kansas  Committee,  later  editor  of 
the  Chicago  Tribune  and  New  York  Evening  Post,  wrote  to 
him  this  note:* 

Office  National  Kansas  Committee, 
Chicago,  Oct.  26,  1856. 
Captain  Brown,  —  We  expect  Mr.  Arny,  our  General  Agent 
just  from  Kansas  to  be  in  tomorrow  morning.  He  has  been  in  the 
territory  particularly  to  ascertain  the  condition  of  certain  affairs 
for  our  information.  I  know  he  will  very  much  regret  not  having 
seen  you.  If  it  is  not  absolutely  essential  for  you  to  go  on  tonight, 
I  would  recommend  you  to  wait  &  see  him.  I  shall  confer  with 
Col.  Dickey  on  this  point. 

Rev.  Theodore  Parker  of  Boston  is  at  the  Briggs  House,  &  wishes 
very  much  to  see  you. 

Yours  truly, 

Horace  White,  Assist.  Sec,  etc. 

If  you  wish  one  or  two  of  those  rifles,  please  call  at  our  office 
between  3  &  5  this  afternoon,  or  between  7  &  8  this  evening. 

W. 

It  is  the  testimony  of  Salmon  Brown  that  his  father  did 
turn  back  and  return  to  Tabor  in  the  wake  of  the  Root  train. 
This  had  a  special  interest  for  him,  because  with  it  went  his 
two  sons  Salmon  and  Watson,  who  had  received,  when  digging 
potatoes  at  North  Elba,  the  news  of  the  battle  of  Osawatomie, 
and  of  a  speech  by  Martin  White  boasting  of  his  having  killed 
Frederick  Brown.  The  next  morning  they  were  on  their  way 
back  to  Kansas  for  the  avowed  purpose  of  killing  White', 
Salmon  going  to  the  Territory  for  the  second  time,  Watson 
for  the  first. ^  Assisted  by  Gerrit  Smith,  Frederick  Douglass 
and  other  friends  (to  whom  naturally  they  did  not  reveal  their 


270  JOHN  BROWN 

exact  errand),  they  reached  Chicago,  where  Mr.  White  gave 
them  each  a  Sharp's  rifle,  and  then  joined  Dr.  Root's  party. 
With  it  they  unwittingly  passed  their  father  in  Iowa,  as  he 
was  bound  to  Chicago.  At  St.  Charles,  Iowa,  Watson  wrote  on 
October  30  to  North  Elba  that  the  train  travelled  very  slowly, 
and  that  he  had  heard  a  report  that  his  father  had  gone  East." 
John  Brown,  on  learning  in  Chicago  of  their  whereabouts,  at 
once  communicated  with  his  son  Owen,  who  had  remained  at 
Tabor,  urging  him  to  stop  the  younger  sons  there  until  he  could 
arrive.  Owen  delivered  the  message,  and  Watson  awaited  his 
father's  arrival,  Salmon  pushing  on  to  carry  out  his  plan. 
When  he  reached  Topeka,  he  heard  and  credited  a  false  story 
of  Martin  White's  death,  and  returned  to  his  Uncle  Jeremiah 
Brown's  at  Hudson,  Ohio,  by  the  aid  of  a  cavalry  horse  bought 
from  the  hanger-on  of  a  camp  of  the  natural  enemies  of  the 
Brown  family,  —  some  regular  cavalry,  —  without,  however, 
a  perfect  title  to  the  mount. 

At  Tabor,  Dr.  Root's  train  deposited  its  arms  and  gave  up 
the  attempt  to  enter  Kansas.  Curiously  enough,  there  were 
in  its  wagons  the  two  hundred  rifles  which  John  Brown  and 
his  men  subsequently  took  to  Harper's  Ferry.  The  Rev.  John 
Todd's  cellar  was  filled  with  boxes  of  clothing,  ammunition, 
these  two  hundred  rifles,  sabres  and  a  brass  cannon,  for  the 
whole  of  that  winter  of  1856-57.  With  his  son  Watson,  John 
Brown  soon  left  Tabor.  They  "rode  and  tied  across  Iowa  on 
a  big  mule  and  got  to  Ohio  two  weeks  after  I  did,"  writes 
Salmon  Brown,  whose  cavalry  steed  had  carried  him  eastward 
in  phenomenally  short  time.  John  Brown  stopped  again  in 
Chicago,  early  in  December,  arriving  in  Ohio  after  an  absence 
of  over  fifteen  months.*  He  was  not  content,  however,  to  lin- 
ger with  his  relatives  in  Hudson;  he  pushed  on  to  Albany, 
Rochester  and  Peterboro. 

*  It  was  probably  at  this  time  that  John  Brown,  visiting  his  half-sister,  Mrs. 
S.  C.  Davis,  in  Grafton,  Ohio,  made  a  characteristic  reply  to  Mrs.  Davis's  ques- 
tion: "John,  is  n't  it  dreadful  that  Fremont  should  have  been  defeated  and  such 
a  man  as  Buchanan  put  into  office!" 

"Well,  truly,"  answered  Brown,  "as  I  look  at  it  now,  I  see  that  it  was  the  right 
thing.  If  Fremont  had  been  elected,  the  people  would  have  settled  right  down 
and  made  no  further  effort.  Now  they  know  they  must  work  if  they  want  to  save 
a  free  State."  —  Statement  of  Mrs.  S.  C.  Davis,  Kalamazoo,  Mich.,  November 
24,  1909,  to  K.  Mayo. 


NEW   FRIENDS   FOR  OLD  VISIONS  271 

But[his  overweening  desire  to  obtain  men,  weapons  and 
supplies  for  Kansas  left  him  no  time  for  his  Adirondack  home. 
Just  after  the  New  Year  he  arrived  in  Boston,  and  there  began 
a  series  of  friendships  which  became  of  the  greatest  value 
to  him  during  the  remainder  of  his  life.  Here  he  met  for  the 
first  time  Frank  B.  Sanborn,  ever  afterward  his  most  ardent 
Massachusetts  friend  and  defender,  who  was  then  acting  as 
a  secretary  of  the  Massachusetts  State  Kansas  Committee^ 
Sanborn,  then  but  a  year  and  a  half  out  of  Harvard,  was 
on  fire  for  the  anti-slavery  cause,  and  ready  to  worship  any 
of  its  militant  leaders.  John  Brown,  fresh  from  the  Kansas 
battlefields,  made  a  deep  impression  upon  this  young  Con- 
cord school-master,  who  had  turned  over  his  scholars  to  a 
Harvard  student  while  he  worked  for  Kansas.  On  January  5, 
Sanborn  thus  recorded  his  first  impressions  of  his  life's  hero  to 
Mr.  Thomas  Wentworth  Higginson,  the  fighting  young  Uni- 
tarian parson  of  Worcester: 

"'Old  Brown'  of  Kansas  is  now  in  Boston,  with  one  of  his  sons, 
working  for  an  object  in  which  you  will  heartily  sympathize  — 
raising  and  arming  a  company  of  men  for  the  future  protectiion  of 
Kansas.  He  wishes  to  raise  $30,000  to  arm  and  equip  a  company 
such  as  he  thinks  he  can  raise  this  present  winter,  but  he  will,  as 
I  understand  him,  take  what  money  he  can  raise  and  use  it  as  far 
as  it  will  go.  Can  you  not  come  to  Boston  tomorrow  or  next  day 
and  see  Capt.  Brown?  If  not,  please  indicate  when  you  will  be  in 
Worcester,  so  he  can  see  you.  I  like  the  man  from  what  I  have  seen 
—  and  his  deeds  ought  to  bear  witness  for  him."" 

To  Mr.  Sanborn,  John  Brown  brought  a  personal  letter 
of  introduction  from  a  relative  in  Springfield,  Massachu- 
setts, and  a  general  one  from  Governor  Salmon  P.  Chase,  of 
Ohio,  based  on  Charles  Robinson's  letter  of  commendation, 
and  dated  December  20,  1856.*  At  onceJMr.  Sanborn  took 
him  to  Dr.  Samuel  G.  Howe  and  Theodore  Parker.  Patrick 
Tracy  Jackson,  the  treasurer  of  the  Massachusetts  State 
Kansas  Committee,  George  L.  Stearns,  Amos  A.  Lawrence, 
Dr.  Samuel  Cabot,  Jr.,  Judge  Thomas  Russell,  Wendell 
Phillips  and  William  Lloyd  Garrison  were  some  of  the  other 
friends  Brown  madeTJ  Mr.  Garrison  he  met  one  Sunday 
evening  in  January  at  Theodore  Parker's.  They  were  at  oppo- 

*  Governor  Chase  gave  Brown  twenty-five  dollars  on  this  occasion. 


272  JOHN  BROWN 

site  poles  of  thought  in  their  methods  of  deaUng  with  slavery. 
Mr.  Garrison,  a  non-resistant,  could  conceive  no  situation  in 
which  it  was  right  to  take  up  arms,  —  "carnal  weapons,"  as 
he  often  called  them,  —  while  Brown  was  all  impatience  with 
men  who  only  talked  and  would  not  shoot.  The  debate  lasted 
until  late  in  the  evening.  Mr.  Garrison,  it  has  been  recorded, 

"saw  in  the  famous  Kansas  chieftain  a  tall,  spare,  farmer-like  man, 
with  head  disproportionately  small,  and  that  inflexible  mouth  which 
as  yet  no  beard  concealed.  They  discussed  peace  and  nonresist- 
ance  together.  Brown  quoting  the  Old  Testament  against  Gar- 
rison's citations  from  the  New,  and  Parker  from  time  to  time  in- 
jecting a  bit  of  Lexington  into  the  controversy,  which  attracted 
a  small  group  of  interested  listeners.'" 

'  (jVIr.  Parker  soon  became  one  of  five  men  who  grouped 
themselves  as  an  informal  committee  to  aid  Brown  in  what- 
ever attacks  he  might  make  on  slavery,  though  Mr.  Parker 
was  not  certain  that  Brown's  general  plan  for  attacking  the 
hated  institution  would  be  successful.  "I  doubt,"  he  said, 
"whether  things  of  this  kind  will  succeed.  But  we  shall  make 
a  great  many  failures  before  we  discover  the  right  way  of  get- 
ting at  it.  This  may  as  well  be  one  of  them."  *  When  the  final 
blow  was  struck,  no  one  wrote  more  vigorously  in  Brown's 
support  than  did  Theodore  Parkerf] 

George  Luther  Stearns,  a  successful  merchant  of  Boston 
and  an  exceptionally  public-spirited  man,  became,  as  he  him- 
self put  it,  "strongly  impressed"  with  Brown's  "sagacity, 
courage,  and  strong  integrity,"  and  thereafter  practically  put 
his  purse  at  Brown's  disposal.'  He  and  Gerrit  Smith  gave  to 
him  more  liberally  than  any  one  else,  as  will  hereafter  appear, 
and  their  homes  were  always  open  to  him.  It  was  on  Sunday, 
January  ii,  1857,  that  Brown  first  entered  the  hospitable 
Stearns  mansion,  entertaining  the  family  at  table  with  an 
account  of  Black  Jack,  grimly  humorous.  1°  To  Mr.  Stearns 
he  gave  his  views  of  the  Kansas  chieftains,  Pomeroy,  Robin- 
son, etc.,  exalting  Martin  F.  Conway  as  the  best  of  the  politi- 
cal leaders,  but  characterizing  him  as  lacking  in  force.  The 
memory  of  that  dinner  is  still  kept  green  in  the  Stearns 
family ;  its  immediate  effect  was  a  determination  on  Mr. 
Stearns's  part  to  do  everything  in  his  power  to  get  Brown  the 
arms  and  money  he  desired. 


NEW   FRIENDS   FOR  OLD   VISIONS  273 

Amos  A.  Lawrence,  who  had  known  Brown  when  he  was 
in  Springfield  in  the  wool  business,  records  in  his  diary  on 
January  7:  "Captain  Brown,  the  old  partisan  hero  of  Kan- 
sas warfare,  came  to  see  me.  I  had  a  long  talk  with  him.  He  is 
a  calm,  temperate  and  pious  man,  but  when  roused  he  is  a 
dreadful  foe.  He  appears  about  sixty  years  old."  "  In  view 
of  Mr.  Lawrence's  complete  change  of  opinion  in  regard  to 
Brown  in  later  years,  it  is  interesting  to  note  that  he  about  this 
time  characterized  Brown  as  the  "Miles  Standish  of  Kansas." 

"His  severe  simplicity  of  habits,"  Mr.  Lawrence-continued,  "his 
determined  energy,  his  heroic  courage  in  the  time  of  trial,  all  based 
on  a  deep  religious  faith,  make  him  a  true  representative  of  the 
Puritanic  warrior.  I  knew  him  before  he  went  to  Kansas  and  have 
known  more  of  him  since,  and  should  esteem  the  loss  of  his  service, 
from  poverty,  or  any  other  cause,  almost  irreparable."'^ 

This  opinion  Mr.  Lawrence  was  also  willing  to  back  with  his 
money.  He  offered  to  be 

"one  of  ten,  or  a  smaller  number,  to  pay  a  thousand  dollars  per 
annum  till  the  admission  of  Kansas  into  the  Union,  for  the  purpose 
of  supporting  John  Brown's  family  and  keeping  the  proposed  com- 
pany in  the  field." 

This  record  of  the  impression  made  by  John  Brown  upon 
those  whom  he  met  aboutthis  time  would  not  be  complete 
without  a  quotation  frony^enry  D.  Thoreau,  in  whose  house 
at  Concord  Brown  saw,  in  March,  Ralph  Waldo  Emerson. 
It  was  eminently  characteristic  of  the  strength  of  Brown's 
personality,  and  of  the  vigor  of  his  mentaHty,  that  he  should 
have  made  both  of  these  men  his  devoted  adherents.  Like 
Theodore  Parker's,  their  support  of  him  became  of  enormous 
value  in  1859,  in  shaping  the  judgment  of  the  time  upon  John 
Brown.  In  his  eloquent  'Plea  for  Captain  John  Brown,' 
Thoreau  thus  describes  Brown  as  he  found  him  in  1857:  '^ 

"A  man  of  rare  common-sense  and  directness  of  speech,  as  of  ac- 
tion; a  transcendentalist  above  all,  a  man  of  ideas  and  principles, — 
that  was  what  distinguished  him.  Not  yielding  to  a  whim  or  tran- 
sient impulse,  but  carrying  out  the  purpose  of  a  life.  I  noticed  that 
he  did  not  overstate  anything,  but  spoke  within  bounds.  I  remem- 
ber, particularly,  how,  in  his  speech  here,  he  referred  to  what  his 
family  had  suffered  in  Kansas,  without  ever  giving  the  least  vent  to 


274  JOHN  BROWN 

his  pent-up  fire.  It  was  a  volcano  with  an  ordinary  chimney-flue. 
Also,  referring  to  the  deeds  of  certain  Border  Ruffians,  he  said, 
rapidly  paring  away  his  speech,  like  an  experienced  soldier,  keep- 
ing a  reserve  of  force  and  meaning,  'They  had  a  perfect  right  to 
be  hung.'  He  was  not  in  the  least  a  rhetorician,  was  not  talking  to 
Buncombe  or  his  constituents  anywhere,  had  no  need  to  invent 
anything,  but  to  tell  the  simple  truth,  and  communicate  his  own 
resolution;  therefore  he  appeared  incomparably  strong,  and  elo- 
quence in  Congress  and  elsewhere  seemed  to  me  at  a  discount.  It 
was  like  the  speeches  of  Cromwell  compared  with  those  of  an  ordi- 
nary king." 

It  must  not  "be  forgotten,  in  this  connection,  that  very  little 
was  known  in  Boston  at  this  time  about  the  Pottawatomie 
murders,  and  still  less  about  John  Brown's  connection  with 
them.  Frank  Preston  Stearns,  the  biographer  of  his  father, 
states  that  the  latter  never  knew  of  John  Brown's  connection 
with  the  crime,"  and  it  may  well  be  that  Theodore  Parker 
and  others  passed  off  the  scene  without  a  full  realization  of 
the  connection  between  the  Harper's  Ferry  leader  and  the 
tragedy  of  May  24,  1856.  To  none  of  these  new-found  friends 
did  Brown  at  this  period  communicate  his  Virginia  plan. 
He  kept  it  to  himself  a  year  longer;  but  he  did  not  conceal 
from  some  of  them  his  desire  to  defend  Kansas  by  raiding 
in  Missouri,  or  by  attacking  slavery  at  some  other  vulnerable 
point.  With  the  general  idea  they  were,  like  Theodore  Parker, 
in  accord,  but  not  sufficiently  interested  to  ask  for  details,  so 
abounding  was  the  faith  in  himself  which  the  mere  appear- 
ance of  the  man  created  y/ 

Qohn  Brown's  first  practical  encouragement  came  on 
January  7,  when  the  Massachusetts  State  Kansas  Committee, 
of  which  Stearns  was  chairman,  voluntarily  voted  to  give 
him  the  two  hundred  Sharp's  rifles,  together  with  four  thou- 
sand ball  cartridges  and  thirty-one  thousand  percussion  caps, 
then  in  the  Rev.  John  Todd's  cellar  at  Tabor.'^  These  arms 
Brown  was  glad  to  obtain,  because  of  their  nearness  to  the 
scene  of  action;  he  was  to  take  possession  of  them  as  the 
agent  of  the  committee,  and,  more  than  that,  was  authorized 
to  draw  on  the  treasurer,  Mr.  P.  T.  Jackson,  for  not  less 
than  five  hundred  dollars  for  expenses.  The  only  conditions 
were  that  these  rifles  were  to  be  held  subject  to  the  order 
of  the  committee,  and  that  Brown  was  to  report  from  time 


NEW   FRIENDS   FOR  OLD  VISIONS         275 

to  time  the  condition  of  the  property  and  the  disposition 
made  of  it,  "so  far  as  it  is  proper  to  do  so."  Subsequently 
(April  15,  1857),  Brown  was  authorized  to  sell  one  hundred 
of  these  rifles  to  Free  State  settlers  in  Kansas  for  not  less 
than  fifteen  dollars  each,  and  to  apply  the  proceeds  to  relieve 
the  suffering  inhabitants  of  the  Territory. '«  These  weapons, 
originally  purchased  by  Dr.  Cabot,  under  instructions  voted 
on  September  10,  were  first  intended  to  be  "loaned  to  actual 
settlers  for  defence  against  unlawful  aggressions  upon  their 
rights  and  liberties."  "  Afterwards,  there  arose  a  misunder- 
standing as  to  the  ownership  of  these  arms  between  the  State 
Committee,  the  National  Committee  and  the  Central  Com- 
mittee for  Kansas  at  Lawrence,  which  was  finally  straightened 
out  by  the  National  Committee's  relinquishment  of  all  claim 
to  the  rifles,  just  as  the  Massachusetts  Committee  was  about 
to  proceed  legally  for  their  recovery. 

It  was  at  the  Astor  House  in  New  York  that  the  National 
Kansas  Committee  met  on  Saturday,  January  24,  for  the  ses- 
sion at  which  the  rifles  were  returned  to  the  original  donors. 
John  Brown  applied  for  them,  but,  as  Horace  White  sub- 
sequently testified,  there  was  a  good  deal  of  opposition  to 
the  policy  of  granting  him  arms.'*  Twelve  boxes  of  selected 
clothing,  sufficient  for  sixty  persons,  were  given  to  him,  but 
the  question  of  the  rifles  was  settled  by  transferring  them  to 
the  Massachusetts  Committee,  on  motion  of  Mr.  Sanborn. 
A  resolution  appropriating  five  thousand  dollars  for  John 
Brown  was  violently  opposed  by  those  who  were  against  giv- 
ing him  the  rifles ;  they  felt  that  he  was  too  radical  and  violent 
to  be  trusted  with  such  a  sum,  and  that  he  would,  if  given  it, 
disburse  it  in  ways  the  Committee  might  not  sanction. "  The 
Secretary  of  the  National  Committee,  H.  B.  Hurd,  recorded  in 
i860  that  he  asked  Brown  before  the  Committee:  " If  you  get 
the  arms  and  money  you  desire,  will  you  invade  Missouri  or 
any  slave  territory?  "  To  which  he  [Brown]  replied: 

"I  am  no  adventurer.  You  all  know  me.  You  are  acquainted 
with  my  history.  You  know  what  I  have  done  in  Kansas.  I  do  not 
expose  my  plans.  No  one  knows  them  but  myself,  except  perhaps 
one.  I  will  not  be  interrogated ;  if  you  wish  to  give  me  anything  I 
want  you  to  give  it  freely.  I  have  no  other  purpose  but  to  serve 
the  cause  of  liberty."^" 


276  JOHN  BROWN 

While  the  reply  was  not  satisfactory  so  far  as  the  rifles  in 
question  were  concerned,  the  Committee  did  vote  five  thou- 
sand dollars  "in  aid  of  Capt.  John  Brown  in  any  defensive 
measures  that  may  become  necessary."  He  was  authorized 
to  draw  five  hundred  dollars  whenever  he  wished  it,  but  it  is 
interesting  to  note  that  he  never  obtained  more  than  one 
hundred  and  fifty  dollars,  and  that  not  until  the  summer  of 
1857,  the  Committee  having  no  more  to  give.  How  this 
failure  rankled  in  Brown's  mind  appears  in  his  letter  of  April 
3,  1857,  to  William  Barnes,  of  Albany,  who  yet  preserves  the 
original:  "I  am  prepared  to  expect  nothing  but  bad  faith  from 
the  National  Kansas  Committee  at  Chicago,  as  I  will  show 
you  hereafter.  This  is  for  the  present  confidential."  In  notify- 
ing Brown  officially,  after  the  action  of  the  Committee,  Mr. 
Hurd  stated  that  "such  arms  and  supplies  as  the  Committee 
may  have  and  which  may  be  needed  by  Capt.  Brown"  were 
appropriated  to  his  use,  "provided  that  the  arms  &  supplies 
be  not  more  than  enough  for  one  hundred  men."  2'  But  this 
obviously  did  not  apply  to  the  rifles  previously  returned  to 
Massachusetts.  Under  this  provision,  twenty-five  Colt's  navy 
revolvers  were  subsequently  sent  to  Brown  at  Lawrence 
through  Mr.  W.  F.  M.  Arny,  agent  of  the  Committee,  but 
they  never  reached  Brown  himself.  As  he  did  not  appear  to 
claim  them,  they  were  loaned  to  the  Stubbs  military  company. 
John  Brown,  in  explanation  of  his  attitude,  told  Horace  White 
that  he  "had  had  so  much  trouble  and  fuss  and  difficulty  with 
the  people  of  Lawrence,  that  he  would  never  go  there  again 
to  claim  anything."  '^^ 

Immediately  after  the  adjournment  of  the  National  Com- 
mittee, Brown  placed  in  Horace  White's  hands  a  substantial 
list  of  articles  he  needed  for  the  equipment  of  fifty  volunteers, 
and  the  cost  thereof  delivered  in  Lawrence  or  Topeka."* 
Jonas  Jones,  of  Tabor,  who  was  in  official  charge  of  the  Free 
State  supplies  there,  was  ordered  to  retain  everything  in  his 
hands  until  John  Brown  had  made  his  choice.  By  February  18, 
Mr.  White  wrote  that  the  articles  Brown  had  requisitioned 
would  be  shipped  the  following  week,  and  on  March  21  he 
notified  Brown  that  he  would  shortly  go  to  Kansas  and  work 
there  to  fit  Brown  out  with  all  the  supplies  he  was  entitled  to 

*  See  Appendix  for  this  requisition. 


NEW   FRIENDS   FOR  OLD  VISIONS  277 

under  the  New  York  resolution ;  ^^  while  in  the  same  month, 
W.  F.  M.  Amy  wrote  that  he  had  packed  and  sent  to  Jonas 
Jones  fourteen  boxes  of  clothing  for  Brown's  use.2«  While 
his  interests  were  thus  considerately  being  cared  for,  after  the 
New  York  meeting,  Brown  again  went  to  Peterboro,  by  way 
of  Vergennes,  Vermont  and  Rochester,  to  visit  Gerrit  Smith, 
who,  although  contributing  a  thousand  dollars  a  month  to  the 
National  Kansas  Committee,  was  quite  ready  to  help  Brown 
from  time  to  time,  and  never  kept  account  of  the  sums  he  gave 
to  the  Kansas  fighter.  From  Peterboro,  Brown  made,  with 
John  Brown,  Jr.,  a  flying  trip  to  his  wife  and  family  at  North 
Elba,  whom  he  had  not  seen  for  a  year  and  a  half.^e  But  he 
was  in  Boston  again  on  February  16,  where  he  wrote  to 
Augustus  Wattles,  asking  for  the  latest  Kansas  news  and  for 
Wattles's  honest  conviction  in  regard  to  Governor  Geary." 
Indeed,  from  now  on  until  he  finally  went  to  Tabor,  en  route 
to  Kansas,  the  story  of  his  movements  is  one  of  incessant 
and  restless  wandering  throughout  New  England  and  New 
York. 

On  the  1 8th  of  February  he  made  what  was  his  most  nota- 
ble public  appearance  in  New  England  —  before  the  Joint 
Committee  on  Federal  Relations  of  the  Massachusetts  Legis- 
lature. The  friends  of  Kansas  were  urging  upon  the  Legisla- 
ture an  appropriation  of  one  hundred  thousand  dollars,  on  the 
ground  that,  as  Mr.  Sanborn  assured  the  Legislature,  "the 
rights  and  interests  of  Massachusetts  have  suffered  gross  out- 
rage in  Kansas."  No  labored  argument  seemed  to  him  neces- 
sary, but  there  were  witnesses  to  testify  to  what  had  occurred 
in  Kansas,  among  them  E.  B.  Whitman,  Martin  F.  Conway 
and  John  Brown.  Whitman  and  Brown  were  introduced  as 
having  the  best  blood  of  the  Mayflower  in  their  veins  and  being 
descendants  of  soldiers  of  the  Revolution.  Brown's  lengthy 
speech  was,  in  substance,  a  story  of  his  own  experiences 
(Pottawatomie  omitted)  and  a  review  of  the  Border  Ruffian 
outrages  upon  individuals  and  towns,  without  mentioning  any 
of  the  Free  State  reprisals.  In  it  he  paid  a  tribute  to  Ottawa 
Jones  and  his  wife  for  their  care  of  himself  and  his  sons. 

"I,"  he  said,  "with  Five  sick,  &  wounded  sons,  &  son  in  law;  were 
obliged  for  some  time  to  lie  on  the  ground  without  shelter,  our 
Boots  &  clothes  worn  out,  destitute  of  money,  &  at  times  almost 


278  JOHN  BROWN 

in  a  state  of  starvation ;  &  dependent  on  the  charities  of  the  Chris- 
tian Indian,  &  his  wife  whom  I  before  named." 

In  the  manuscript  of  this  address,  still  preserved  in  the 
Kansas  Historical  Society,  there  is  the  following  conclusion: 

"It  cost  the  U  S  more  than  half  a  Million  for  a  year  past  to 
harrass  poor  Free  State  settlers,  in  Kansas,  &  to  violate  all  Law, 
&  all  right,  Moral,  &  Constitutional,  for  the  sole  &  only  purpose,  of 
forceing  Slavery  uppon  that  Territory.  I  chalenge  this  whole  nation 
to  prove  before  God  or  mankind  to  contrary.  Who  paid  this  money 
to  enslave  the  settlers  of  Kansas ;  &  worry  them  out?  I  say  nothing 
in  this  estimate  of  the  money  wasted  by  Congress  in  the  manage- 
ment of  this  horribly  tyranical,  &  Damnable  affair." 

In  answer  to  the  chairman's  question  as  to  what  sort  of  emi- 
grants Kansas  needed,  Brown  replied:  "We  want  good  men, 
industrious  men,  men  who  respect  themselves;  who  act  only 
from  the  dictates  of  conscience;  men  who  fear  God  too  much 
to  fear  anything  human, "  —  an  interesting  statement  in 
view  of  the  omission  of  all  reference  to  slavery.^* 

Despite  Brown's  emphatic  words  and  the  moving  story  of 
his  own  sufferings,  the  Massachusetts  Legislature  decided  not 
to  vote  anything  for  the  Kansas  cause,  and  so  Brown  turned 
again  to  raising  the  money  he  needed  for  his  own  company. 
Besides  his  trip  to  Concord,  with  his  two  nights  in  the  Thoreau 
and  Emerson  homes,  he  visited,  in  March,  Canton,  Collinsville, 
Hartford  and  New  Haven,  in  Connecticut,  and  was  several 
times  at  the  Massasoit  House  in  Springfield,  where  he  was  a 
particularly  welcome  visitor  by  reason  of  the  interest  in  him 
of  its  proprietors,  the  Messrs.  Chapin,  who  had  notified  him 
in  the  previous  September  of  their  readiness  to  send  him  fifty 
or  one  hundred  dollars  "as  a  testimonial  of  their  admiration 
of  your  brave  conduct  during  the  war."  ^'  At  New  Haven,  on 
March  i8,  he  received  a  promise  of  one  thousand  dollars.  In 
and  about  Hartford  six  hundred  dollars  were  raised  for  him; 
and  from  Springfield,  Brown  was  able  to  send  four  hundred 
dollars  to  William  H.  D.  Callender,  of  Hartford,  who  for  some 
time  acted  as  his  agent  and  treasurer.  5"  At  Canton,  where 
both  his  father  and  mother  had  grown  up,  Brown  was  gratified 
by  a  promise  to  send  to  his  family  at  North  Elba,  "Grand- 
Father  John  Brown's  old  Granite  Monument,  about  80  years 
old ;  to  be  faced  and  inscribed  in  memory  of  our  poor  Fredk 


NEW   FRIENDS   FOR  OLD  VISIONS  279 

who  sleeps  in  Kansas,"  —  which  stone  marks  to-day  Brown's 
own  grave."  He  also  received  in  Canton  and  Collinsville  the 
sum  of  eighty  dollars,  after  lecturing  for  three  evenings  on 
Kansas  affairs.  About  this  time  he  obtained  seventy  dollars 
sent  through  Amos  A.  Lawrence,  as  he  did  one  hundred  dol- 
lars in  April  contributed  by  a  friend  of  Mr.  Stearns  through 
that  generous  patron.^^  j;^^  g^g  hundred  dollars  voted  to  him 
by  the  Massachusetts  Kansas  State  Committee  on  January  7, 
and  a  second  five  hundred  voted  on  April  1 1 ,  Brown  did  not 
obtain  until  the  19th  or  20th  of  April,  when,  at  Mr.  G.  L. 
Stearns's  suggestion,  he  drew  upon  the  Committee  through 
Henry  Sterns,  of  Springfield."  To  aid  him  in  his  quest.  Brown 
wrote  and  published  in  the  Tribune  and  other  newspapers  the 
following  appeal  for  aid : 

TO  THE   FRIENDS  OF  FREEDOM 

The  undersigned,  whose  individual  means  were  exceedingly  limited 
when  he  first  engaged  in  the  struggle  for  Liberty  in  Kansas,  being 
now  still  more  destitute  and  no  less  anxious  than  in  time  past  to 
continue  his  efforts  to  sustain  that  cause,  is  induced  to  make  this 
earnest  appeal  to  the  friends  of  Freedom  throughout  the  United 
States,  in  the  firm  belief  that  his  call  will  not  go  unheeded.  I  ask 
all  honest  lovers  of  Liberty  and  Human  Rights,  both  male  and  female, 
to  hold  up  my  hands  by  contributions  of  pecuniary  aid,  either  as 
counties,  cities,  towns,  villages,  societies,  churches  or  individuals. 

I  will  endeavor  to  make  a  judicious  and  faithful  application  of  all 
such  means  as  I  may  be  supplied  with.  Contributions  may  be  sent 
in  drafts  to  W.  H.  D.  Callender,  Cashier  State  Bank,  Hartford,  Ct. 
It  is  my  intention  to  visit  as  many  places  as  I  can  during  my  stay 
in  the  States,  provided  I  am  first  informed  of  the  disposition  of  the 
inhabitants  to  aid  me  in  my  efforts,  as  well  as  to  receive  my  visit. 
Information  may  be  communicated  to  me  (care  Massasoit  House) 
at  Springfield,  Mass.  Will  editors  of  newspapers  friendly  to  the 
cause  kindly  second  the  measure,  and  also  give  this  some  half  dozen 
insertions?  Will  either  gentlemen  or  ladies,  or  both,  who  love  the 
cause,  volunteer  to  take  up  the  business?  It  is  with  no  little  sacrifice 
of  personal  feeling  that  I  appear  in  this  manner  before  the  public. 

John  Brown." 

On  March  19,  while  in  New  Haven,  John  Brown  thus 
turned  to  Amos  A.  Lawrence  for  aid  in  his  private  affairs: 

The  offer  you  so  kindly  made  through  the  Telegraph  some  time 
since  emboldens  me  to  propose  the  following  for  your  consideration. 


28o  JOHN  BROWN 

For  One  Thousand  Dollars  cash  I  am  offered  an  improved  piece 
of  land  which  with  a  little  improvement  I  now  have  might  enable 
my  family  consisting  of  a  Wife  &  Five  minor  children  (the  youngest 
not  yet  Three  years  old)  to  procure  a  Subsistence  should  I  never 
return  to  them ;  my  Wife  being  a  good  economist,  &  a  real  old  fash- 
ioned business  woman.  She  has  gone  through  the  Two  past  winters 
in  our  open  cold  house:  unfinished  outside;  &  not  plastered.  I  have 
no  other  income  or  means  for  their  support.  I  have  never  hinted 
to  anyone  else  that  I  had  a  thought  of  asking  for  any  help  to  provide 
in  any  such  way  for  my  family ;  &  should  not  to  you :  but  for  your 
own  suggestion.  I  fully  believe  I  shall  get  the  help  I  need  to  op- 
perate  with  West.  Last  Night  a  private  meeting  of  some  gentlemen 
here;  voted  to  raise  me  One  Thousand  Dollars  in  New  Haven,  for 
that  purpose.  If  you  feel  at  all  inclined  to  encourage  me  in  the  mea- 
sure I  have  proposed  I  shall  be  grateful  to  get  a  line  from  you ;  Care 
of  Massasoit  House,  Springfield,  Mass;  &  will  call  when  I  come 
again  to  Boston.  I  do  not  feel  disposed  to  weary  you  with  my  oft 
repeated  visitations.  I  believe  I  am  indebted  to  you  as  the  unknown 
giver  of  One  Share  of  Emigrant  aid  stock;  as  I  can  think  of  no  other 
so  likely  to  have  done  it.  Is  my  appeal  right  ? 

Very  Respectfully  Your  Friend 

John  Brown.'' 

Mr.  Lawrence  at  once  replied  that  he  had  just  sent  four- 
teen thousand  dollars  to  Kansas  to  found  the  best  possible 
school  system,  and  therefore  was  short  of  cash. 

"But,"  he  added,  "in  case  anything  should  occur  while  you  are 
in  a  great  and  good  cause  to  shorten  your  life,  you  may  be  assured 
that  your  wife  and  children  shall  be  cared  for  more  liberally  than 
you  now  propose.  The  family  of  Captain  Brown  of  Osawatomie 
will  not  be  turned  out  to  starve  in  this  country,  untill  Liberty  her- 
self is  driven  out."'° 

Later,  Mr.  Lawrence  and  Mr.  Stearns  both  agreed  to  this 
proposal,  but  this  thousand  dollars  was  as  slow  to  appear  as 
that  promised  at  New  Haven.  It  was,  however,  finally  raised 
(unlike  the  New  Haven  sum)  and  applied  to  the  purchase  of 
the  land.  The  list  of  contributors  to  this  fund  and  their  gifts 
runs  as  follows: 

Wm.  R.  Lawrence,  Boston       $50 

Amos  A.  Lawrence,        "            310 

Geo.  L.  Stearns,             "            260 

John  E.  Lodge,               "            25 

J.  Carter  Brown,       Providence,  R.  1 100 

J.  M.  S.  Williams,    Boston 50 


NEW   FRIENDS   FOR  OLD  VISIONS  281 

W.  D.  Pickman,  Salem        50 

R.  P.  Waters,                "            10 

S.  E.  Peabody,              "            10 

John  H.  Silsbee,            "            lO 

B.  H.  Silsbee,                "            5 

Cash,                                               10 

Wendell  Phillips,  Boston 25 

W.  I.  Rotch,  New  Bedford 10 

John  Bertram,  Salem        75 

$1000" 

This  was  not  brought  together  until  Brown  had  found  it 
necessary  to  write,  on  May  13,  the  day  he  left  for  the  West: 
"  I  must  ask  to  have  the  $1000  made  up  at  once;  &  forwarded 
to  Gerrit  Smith.  I  did  not  start  the  measure  of  getting  up 
any  subscription  for  me;  (although  I  was  sufifiiciently  needy 
as  God  knows) ;  nor  had  I  thought  oi  further  burdening  either 
oi  ray  A&a.r  ir'iends  Stearns,  or  Lawrence.  .  .  ."''  The  reason 
for  this  urgency  was  that  he  had  committed  himself  for  the 
purchase  of  the  land  to  the  brothers  Thompson.  Even  then 
the  transaction  dragged  on  until  late  in  August,  when  Mr. 
Sanborn  visited  North  Elba  and  put  it  through.'' 

From  the  21st  to  the  26th  of  March,  except  for  a  hasty  trip 
to  Springfield,  Brown  was  in  Worcester,  part  of  the  time  as 
a  guest  of  Eli  Thayer.  On  the  23d  he  spoke  at  an  anti-slavery 
meeting,  and  on  the  25th  he  lectured  in  the  City  Hall,  on 
Kansas.  On  these  and  other  occasions  he  relied  largely  upon 
the  address  he  had  given  before  the  Committee  of  the  Massa- 
chusetts Legislature,  to  which  he  had  appended  the  following 
statement  of  his  own  plans  when  in  Connecticut : " 

"I  am  trying  to  raise  from  $20,  to  25,000  Dollars  in  the  Free 
States  to  enable  me  to  continue  my  efforts  in  the  cause  of  Freedom. 
Will  the  people  of  Connecticut  my  native  State  afford  me  some  aid 
in  this  undertaking?  ...  I  was  told  that  the  newspapers  in  a  cer- 
tain City  were  dressed  in  mourning  on  hearing  that  I  was  killed  & 
scalped  in  Kansas.  .  .  .  Much  good  it  did  me.  In  the  same  place 
I  met  a  more  cool  reception  than  in  any  other  place  where  I  have 
stoped.  If  my  friends  will  hold  up  my  hands  while  I  live:  I  will 
freely  absolve  them  from  any  expence  over  me  when  I  am  dead.  ..." 

Dr.  Francis  Wayland,  who  heard  him  at  Worcester,  was 
not  inspired  by  his  oratorical  powers.    "It  is  one  of  the  cu- 


282  JOHN  BROWN 

rious  facts,"  he  wrote,  "  that  many  men  who  do  it  are  utterly 
unable  to  tell  about  it.  John  Brown,  a  flame  of  fire  in  action, 
was  dull  in  speech."  *'  Emerson,  on  the  other  hand,  in  re- 
cording in  his  diary  Brown's  speech  at  Concord,  said  he  gave, 

"a  good  account  of  himself  in  the  Town  Hall  last  night  to  a  meet- 
ing of  citizens.  One  of  his  good  points  was  the  folly  of  the  peace 
party  in  Kansas,  who  believed  that  their  strength  lay  in  the  great- 
ness of  their  wrongs,  and  so  discountenanced  resistance.  He  wished 
to  know  if  their  wrong  was  greater  than  the  negro's,  and  what 
kind  of  strength  that  gave  to  the  negro."  ^ 

Later,  Emerson  wrote  this  tribute  to  Brown's  powers  as  a 
speaker : 

"For  himself,  he  is  so  transparent  that  all  men  see  him  through. 
He  is  a  man  to  make  friends  wherever  on  earth  courage  and  integ- 
rity are  esteemed,  the  rarest  of  heroes,  a  pure  idealist,  with  no  by- 
ends  of  his  own.  Many  of  you  have  seen  him,  and  everyone  who  has 
heard  him  speak  has  been  impressed  alike  by  his  simple,  artless 
goodness  joined  with  his  sublime  courage."  *^ 

The  iinancial  results  of  the  Worcester  meetings  were  slim. 
But  Eli  Thayer  gave  him  five  hundred  dollars'  worth  of 
weapons  —  a  cannon  and  a  rifle  —  while  Ethan  Allen  and 
Company  also  contributed  a  rifle. ^^  March  ended  for  Brown 
with  a  flying  trip  to  Easton,  Pennsylvania,  in  company  with 
Frank  Sanborn  and  Martin  Conway,  as  representatives  of 
the  Massachusetts  Kansas  Committee,  in  a  fruitless  effort  to 
induce  ex-Governor  Reeder  to  return  to  Kansas  and  assume 
the  leadership  of  the  Free  State  party.*^  But  Mr.  Reeder 
was  too  happily  situated  at  Easton ;  he  was,  however,  so  heart- 
ily in  sympathy  with  Brown's  plan  that  the  latter  wrote 
to  him  for  aid  on  his  return  to  Springfield,  explaining  that 
the  only  difference  between  them  was  as  to  the  number  of 
men  needed,  and  hoping  that  Mr.  Reeder  would  soon  dis- 
cern the  necessity  of  "going  out  to  Kansas  this  spring.""  It 
was  on  this  visit  to  the  Massasoit  House  that  Brown  found 
a  letter  from  his  wife  telling  him  of  his  sons'  decision  to  fight 
no  more.   To  this  he  replied  on  March  31: 

"I  have  only  to  say  as  regards  the  resolution  of  the  boys  to  'learn 
and  practice  war  no  more,'  that  it  was  not  at  my  solicitation  that 
they  engaged  in  it  at  the  first  —  that  while  I  may  perhaps  feel  no 


ly^^Jrr^    L/PH>-o^YiJ 


NEW   FRIENDS   FOR  OLD  VISIONS         283 

more  love  of  the  business  than  they  do,  still  I  think  there  may 
be  possibly  in  their  day  that  which  is  more  to  be  dreaded,  if  such 
things  do  not  now  exist."" 

His  financial  progress  to  the  end  of  March  by  no  means 
satisfied  Brown.  On  the  3d  of  April  he  wrote  thus  despond- 
ently to  William  Barnes,  of  Albany: 

"I  expect  soon  to  return  West;  &  to  go  back  without  securing 
even  an  outfit.  I  go  with  a  sad  heart  having  failed  to  secure  even 
the  means  of  equiping;  to  say  nothing  of  feeding  men.  I  had  when 
I  returned  no  more  that  I  could  peril ;  &  could  make  no  further  sac- 
rifice, except  to  go  about  in  the  attitude  of  a  beggar:  &  that  I  have 
done,  humiliating  as  it  is." 

The  winter  was  slipping  away  rapidly;  spring  was  at  hand. 
He  was  impatient  to  return  to  Kansas,  and  his  benefac- 
tors expected  him  to  be  there  in  the  spring  in  time  for  any 
fresh  aggression  by  the  Border  Ruffians.  But  his  travelling 
expenses  were  not  light,  and  there  were  two  matters  that 
rapidly  reduced  his  cash  resources,  especially  during  the 
month  of  April.  On  the  occasion  of  Brown's  first  visit  to 
Collinsville,  about  the  beginning  of  March,  he  met,  among 
others,  Charles  Blair,  a  blacksmith  and  forge-master,  who 
attended  Brown's  lecture  on  Kansas  and  heard  his  appeal 
for  funds.  The  next  morning  he  saw  Brown  in  the  village 
drug-store,  where,  to  a  group  of  interested  citizens,  the  Cap- 
tain was  exhibiting  some  weapons  which  were  part  of  the 
property  taken  from  Pate  and  not  returned  to  him.  Mr. 
Blair  testified  in  1859:  ^^ 

"Among  them  was  a  two-edged  dirk,  with  a  blade  about  eight 
inches  long,  and  he  [Brown]  remarked  that  if  he  had  a  lot  of  those 
things  to  attach  to  poles  about  six  feet  long,  they  would  be  a  cap- 
ital weapon  of  defense  for  the  settlers  of  Kansas  to  keep  in  their  log 
cabins  to  defend  themselves  against  any  sudden  attack  that  might 
be  made  on  them.  He  turned  to  me,  knowing,  I  suppose,  that  I  was 
engaged  in  edge-tool  making,  and  asked  me  what  I  would  make 
them  for;  what  it  would  cost  to  make  five  hundred  or  one  thousand 
of  those  things,  as  he  described  them.  I  replied,  without  much  con- 
sideration, that  I  would  make  him  five  hundred  of  them  for  a  dollar 
and  a  quarter  apiece;  or  if  he  wanted  a  thousand  of  them,  I  thought 
they  might  be  made  for  a  dollar  apiece.  I  did  not  wish  to  commit 
myself  then  and  there  without  further  investigation.  ...  He  sim- 


284  JOHN  BROWN' 

ply  remarked  that  he  would  want  them  made.  I  thought  no  more 
about  it  until  a  few  days  afterwards.  .  .  .  The  result  was  that  I 
made  a  contract  with  him." 

This  document  was  not  signed  until  March  30,  ten  days 
after  Blair  had  shipped  one  dozen  spears  as  samples  to  the 
Massasoit  House.  This  was  the  genesis  of  the  Harper's  Ferry 
pikes,  for  the  weapons  Brown  contracted  for  were  never 
delivered  until  1859,  —  long  after  any  Kansas  need  for  them 
had  disappeared. 

The  reason  for  this  delay  is  not  to  be  explained,  as  some 
have  thought,  by  the  theory  that  Brown  from  the  first  in- 
tended to  use  the  spears  elsewhere  than  in  Kansas.  There 
is  evidence,  besides  his  statements  and  letters  to  Blair,  that 
he  really  thought  these  weapons  would  be  of  value  even  to 
the  Free  State  women  of  the  embattled  Territory.  Un- 
doubtedly, Brown  looked  forward  to  a  further  attack  upon 
slavery  after  the  Kansas  battle  was  won.  The  fate  of  Kansas 
appealed  to  him  only  in  so  far  as  it  involved  an  aggressive 
attack  upon  slavery.  He  did  not,  so  Mr.  Sanborn  testifies, 
reveal  his  Virginia  plans,  which  were  always  in  the  back  of 
his  head,  to  any  of  his  new  Massachusetts  friends  until  1858. 
But  in  view  of  his  long-cherished  scheme  for  a  direct  assault 
upon  slavery,  and  his  confidences  at  this  time  to  Hugh  Forbes, 
there  can  be  no  question  that,  in  asking  for  far  more  arms 
than  could  be  used  by  a  hundred  or  even  two  hundred  men, 
his  mind  was  fixed  upon  further  use  for  them  after  the  Bor- 
der Ruffians  had  ceased  from  troubling.  Kansas  was  to  be 
a  prologue  to  the  real  drama ;  the  properties  of  the  one  were 
to  serve  in  the  other.  Had  Brown  obtained  the  money  he 
needed  to  pay  for  the  pikes,  he  would  surely  have  received 
them  in  July,  1857,  on  the  1st  of  which  the  delivery  was  to 
be  made.  But  Brown  was  not  able  to  make  the  first  payment 
of  five  hundred  dollars  within  ten  days,  as  required  by  the 
contract.  Instead,  he  sent  only  three  hundred  and  fifty  dol- 
lars, and  did  not  make  his  next  payment  of  two  hundred 
dollars  until  April  25. 

Blair  was  a  canny  Yankee.  While  he  bought  all  the  mate- 
rial needed — the  handles  were  of  ash  and  the  spearheads 
strong  malleable  iron,  two  inches  wide  and  about  eight  inches 
long,  with  a  screw  and  ferrules  to  connect  the  blade  to  the 


NEW   FRIENDS   FOR  OLD  VISIONS  285 

handle  or  shank  —  and  did  some  work  on  the  contract,  he 
stopped  when  he  had  done  enough  work  to  have  earned  the 
five  hundred  and  fifty  dollars.  The  handles  were  laid  aside 
in  bundles  to  season,  and  the  iron  work  carefully  preserved 
until  such  time  as  Brown  should  give  further  orders  and  sup- 
ply additional  funds.  It  was  not  until  he  received  a  letter 
dated  February  10,  1858,  that  Blair  again  heard  from  his 
Kansas  friend,  and,  with  the  exception  of  another  letter, 
written  on  March  11,  1858,  nothing  further  happened  until 
Brown  unexpectedly  appeared  at  Blair's  door  on  June  3, 
1859,  and  took  the  necessary  steps  to  have  the  pikes  com- 
pleted without  loss  of  time.  Then,  certainly,  it  was  Brown's 
idea  to  place  these  weapons  in  the  hands  of  slaves,  in  order 
that,  unaccustomed  as  they  were  to  firearms,  they  might 
with  them  fight  their  way  to  liberty. 

Brown's  second  investment  at  this  period  cost  him  still 
more  money  than  the  pikes,  and  resulted  in  little  or  no  benefit 
and  some  very  considerable  injury  to  his  long-cherished  plan 
of  carrying  the  "war  into  Africa,"  of  making  the  institu- 
tion of  slavery  insecure  by  a  direct  attack  upon  it.  On  one 
of  his  trips  to  New  York  he  met,  late  in  March,  through 
the  Rev.  Joshua  Leavitt,  of  the  New  York  Independent,  one 
Hugh  Forbes,  a  suave  adventurer  of  considerable  ability,  who 
habitually  called  himself  colonel,  because  of  military  service 
in  Italy  under  Garibaldi,  in  the  unsuccessful  revolution  of 
1848-49.^'  Forbes  was  typical  of  the  human  flotsam  and 
jetsam  washed  up  by  every  revolutionary  movement.  A 
silk  merchant  for  a  time  in  Sienna,  he  was  perpetually  needy 
after  his  arrival  in  New  York,  about  1855,  living  by  his  tal- 
ents as  a  teacher  of  fencing,  and  by  doing  odd  jobs  on  the 
Tribune  as  translator  or  reporter.  About  forty-five  years 
of  age,  he  was  a  good  linguist  and  had  acquired  in  Italy 
some  knowledge  of  military  campaigning,  —  quite  enough  to 
impress  John  Brown,  who  believed  he  had  found  in  Forbes 
precisely  the  expert  lieutenant  he  needed,  not  only  for  the 
coming  Kansas  undertaking,  but  for  the  more  distant  raid 
upon  Virginia.  Vain,  obstinate,  unstable  and  greatly  lacking 
funds,  as  Forbes  was,  Brown's  projects  appealed  mightily 
to  him ;  he  speedily  saw  himself  in  fancy  the  Garibaldi  of 
a  revolution  against  slavery.    John  Brown,  the  reticent  and 


286  JOHN  BROWN 

self-contained,  unbosomed  himself  to  this  man  as  he  had 
not  to  the  Massachusetts  friends  who  were  advancing  the 
money  upon  which  he  lived  and  plotted.  The  result  was 
Forbes's  engagement  as  instructor,  at  one  hundred  dollars 
a  month,  of  the  proposed  "volunteer-regular"  company,  to 
operate  first  in  Kansas  and  later  in  Virginia,  into  which 
undertaking  Forbes  entered  the  more  willingly  as  he  learned 
of  the  wealthy  New  England  men  who  were  backing  Brown. 

For  Brown  this  was  an  unhappy  alliance;  dissimilar  in 
character,  training  and  antecedents,  and  alike  only  in  their 
insistence  on  leadership,  mutual  disappointment  and  dissat- 
isfaction were  the  only  possible  outcome  of  the  association 
of  the  two  men.  Forbes,  as  will  be  seen  later,  became  the 
evil  genius  of  the  Brown  enterprise.  First  of  all,  he  absorbed 
money,  when  Brown  had  none  too  much  for  his  own  imme- 
diate needs  and  the  first  payments  to  Blair  for  the  pikes. 
Forbes  was  authorized  by  Brown,  early  in  April,  to  draw 
upon  Mr.  Callender,  of  Hartford,  for  six  hundred  dollars, 
and  he  did  so  within  the  month.  But  he  showed  so  little 
inclination  to  follow  Brown  westward  that  the  latter  soon 
became  suspicious. 

Forbes  had  several  excuses  for  delaying.  It  had  been 
agreed  that  he  should  translate  and  condense  a  foreign  man- 
ual of  guerrilla  warfare;  this  he  did  under  the  title  of  'Man- 
ual of  the  Patriotic  Volunteer.'  This  work  dragged  inter- 
minably; on  June  I,  Joseph  Bryant,  a  New  York  friend  of 
Brown's,  who  acted  for  him,  reported,  after  a  call  on  Forbes, 
that  the  latter  was  content  with  his  progress  and  certain  that 
he  was  losing  no  time.  On  June  i6,  Forbes  assured  Bryant 
that  the  book  would  be  ready  in  ten  days;  that  he  was  not 
ready  to  join  Brown;  indeed,  he  now  had  doubts  whether 
any  help  would  be  needed  in  Kansas  until  winter.  This 
report  so  alarmed  Brown  that  on  June  22  he  sent  to  Forbes, 
through  Bryant,  a  demand  for  the  immediate  repayment  of 
the  six  hundred  dollars,  or  as  much  of  it  as  he  might  have 
drawn  through  Callender.  Bryant  at  once  took  the  order 
to  Forbes,  but  becoming  convinced  that  "the  colonel"  was 
acting  in  good  faith,  and  that  much  of  the  money  had  al- 
ready been  spent,  did  not  show  it  to  the  budding  author, 
who  was  now  certain  of  finishing  his  book  "in  about  a  week." 


NEW  FRIENDS  FOR  OLD  VISIONS         287 

To  that  volume,  however,  Forbes  had  not  devoted  all  his 
energies,  for  he  had  spent  considerable  time  in  endeavoring 
to  raise  more  money  with  which  to  bring  his  family  over 
from  Paris,  where  they  were  eking  out  a  precarious  exist- 
ence. Of  Brown's  six  hundred  dollars  the  family  had  received 
one  hundred  and  twenty  dollars ;  sums  amounting  to  seven 
hundred  dollars  Forbes  obtained  from  Horace  Greeley  and 
other  friends  of  Free  Kansas,  according  to  a  statement  of 
Mr.  Greeley  in  the  Tribune  for  October  24,  1859.  What 
became  of  these  funds  is  not  known,  but  by  June  25  Forbes 
had  given  up  his  idea  of  bringing  his  family  over,  and  had 
decided  to  send  to  Paris  the  daughter  who  was  in  New  York, 
that  she  might  be  with  her  mother.  Finally,  Forbes  drifted 
westward,  arriving  at  Tabor  on  August  9,  two  days  after 
Brown's  appearance  at  the  same  place.  He  had  stopped  at 
Gerrit  Smith's  at  Peterboro  on  his  way  out,  and  success- 
fully appealed  to  the  purse  of  that  ever  generous  man,  who 
had  "helped"  John  Brown  to  a  "considerable  sum"  ($350) 
when  they  parted  in  Chicago  on  June  22.  Nevertheless, 
Forbes  obtained  one  hundred  and  fifty  dollars,  of  which  he 
sent  all  but  twenty  dollars  back  to  New  York  toward  the 
cost  of  printing  his  book.  Gerrit  Smith  "trusted,"  so  he 
wrote  to  Thaddeus  Hyatt,  that  Forbes  would  "prove  very 
useful  to  our  sacred  work  in  Kansas."  "We  must,"  he  added, 
"not  shrink  from  fighting  for  Liberty  —  &  if  Federal  troops 
fight  against  her,  we  must  fight  against  them."  6" 

Aside  from  his  negotiations  with  Forbes,  and  with  Mr. 
Blair  for  the  pikes,  April  was  for  Brown  another  month  of 
active  solicitation  of  funds,  but  with  even  more  disappoint- 
ing results,  complicated  by  the  news,  received  from  his  son 
Jason,  that  a  deputy  United  States  marshal  had  passed 
through  Cleveland,  bound  East  to  arrest  him  for  some  of  his 
Kansas  transactions."  He  wrote  on  the  i6th,  from  Spring- 
field, to  Eli  Thayer  that: 

"One  of  U  S  Hounds  is  on  my  trackr&  I  have  kept  myself  hid 
for  a  few  days  to  let  my  track  get  cold.  I  have  no  idea  of  being 
taken ;  &  intend  {if '  God  will ';)  to  go  back  with  Irons  in  rather  than 
uppon  my  hands.  ...  I  got  a  fine  lift  in  Boston  the  other  day; 
&  hope  Worcester  will  not  be  entirely  behind.  I  do  not  mean  you; 
or  Mr.  Allen,  &  Co.'"'' 


288  JOHN  BROWN 

This  keeping  himself  hid  had  reference  to  his  stay  with 
Judge  and  Mrs.  Russell  in  Boston  for  a  week,  during  which 
time  Mrs.  Russell  allowed  no  one  but  herself  to  open  the 
front  door,  lest  the  "US  Hounds  "  appear.  The  Russell  house 
was  chosen  because  it  was  in  a  retired  street,  and  Judge 
Russell  himself  was  never  conspicuous  in  the  Abolitionist 
ranks,  in  order  that  he  might  be  the  more  serviceable  to 
the  cause  in  quiet  ways.  Mrs.  Russell  remembers  to  this 
day  Brown's  sense  of  humor  and  his  keen  appreciation  of 
the  negro  use  of  long  words  and  their  grandiloquence.  She 
recalls,  too,  that  he  frequently  barricaded  his  bedroom,  told 
her  of  his  determination  not  to  be  taken  alive,  and  added, 
"I  should  hate  to  spoil  your  carpet."*' 
/It  was  while  staying  with  the  Russells  that  he  came  down- 
/stairs  one  day  with  a  written  document  which  voiced  his 
bitter  disappointment  at  his  non-success  in  obtaining  the 
funds  he  needed.   He  read  it  aloud,  as  follows: 

"Old  Browns  Farewell:  to  the  Plymouth  Rocks;  Bunker  Hill, 
Monuments;  Charter  Oaks;  and  Uncle  Toms,  Cabbins. 

"Has  left  for  Kansas.  Was  trying  since  he  came  out  of  the  ter- 
ritory to  secure  an  outfit;  or  in  other  words  the  means  of  arming  and 
equiping  thoroughly ;  his  regular  minuet  men:  who  are  mixed  up  mth 
the  people  of  Kansas :  and  he  leaves  the  States;  with  a  deep  feeling 
OF  sadness:  that  after  having  exhausted  his  own  small  means:  and 
with  h.v&  family  and  his  brave  men  :  suffered  hunger,  nakedness,  cold, 
sickness,  (and  some  [of]  them)  imprisonment,  with  most  barbarous, 
and  cruel  treatment:  wounds,  and  death:  that  after  lying  on  the 
ground  for  Months;  in  the  most  unwholesome  awfi  sickly;  as  well 
as  uncomfortable  places:  with  sick  and  wounded  destitute  of  any 
shelter  a  part  of  the  time;  dependent  {in  part)  on  the  care,  and 
hospitality  of  the  Indians :  and  hunted  like  Wolves :  that  after  ail 
this;  in  order  to  sustain  a  cause,  which  every  Citizen  of  this  'Glorious 
Republic,'  is  under  equal  Moral  obligation  to  do:  {and  for  the  neglect 
of  which  HE  WILL  be  held  accountable  to  god:)  in  which  every  Man, 
Woman,  and  Child  of  the  entire  human  family;  has  a  deep  and  awful 
interest :  that  when  no  wages  are  asked,  or  expected :  he  canot  secure 
(amidst  all  the  wealth,  luxury,  and  extravagance  of  this  'Heaven, 
exalted '  people ;)  even  the  necessary  supplies,  for  a  common  soldier. 

'  How  ARE  THE  MIGHTY  FALLEN  ? ' 

\  John  Brown." 

I  \,'  Boston,  April,  1857." 

For  one  encouraging  happening  about  this  time,  John 
Brown  was  again  indebted  to  the  generosity  of  Mr.  Stearns. 


NEW   FRIENDS   FOR  OLD  VISIONS  289 

He  had  set  his  heart  on  receiving  two  hundred  revolvers,  in 
addition  to  the  twenty-five  donated  by  the  National  Kansas 
Committee,  and  through  Mr.  Thayer  he  had  made  inquiry 
as  to  the  prices  of  several  manufacturers.  Finally,  he  received 
a  low  bid  of  thirteen  hundred  dollars  for  two  hundred  re- 
volvers from  the  Massachusetts  Arms  Company,  through  its 
agent,  T.  W.  Carter,  at  Chicopee  Falls,  who  stated  that  the 
low  price  —  fifty  per  cent  of  the  usual  charge  —  was  due 
solely  to  the  company's  generous  purpose  "of  aiding  in  your 
project  of  protecting  the  free  state  settlers  of  Kansas  and 
securing  their  rights  to  the  institutions  of  free  America.'"  '^ 
John  Brown  at  once  reported  this  offer  to  Mr.  Stearns,  saying: 
"Now  if  Rev  T  Parker,  &  other  good  people  of  Boston,  would 
make  up  that  amount;  I  might  at  least  be  well  armed."  ^^  Mr. 
Stearns  immediately  notified  Mr.  Carter  that  he  would  pur- 
chase the  revolvers  and  pay  for  them  by  his  note  at  four 
months  from  date  of  delivery,  as  this  would  give  him  time  to 
raise  the  money  by  subscription  if  he  desired  to.  The  company 
accepted  the  proposition,  and  shipped  the  revolvers  on  May  25 
to  "J.  B.  care  Dr.  Jesse  Bowen,  Iowa  City,  Iowa,"  with  the 
company's  hope  "  that  there  may  be  no  occasion  for  their  ser- 
vice in  securing  rights  which  ought  to  be  guaranteed  by  the 
principles  of  justice  and  equity."  As  if  he  had  a  little  doubt 
about  their  ultimate  use,  Mr.  Carter  added:  "We  have  no  fear 
that  they  will  be  put  to  service  in  your  hands  for  other  pur- 
poses." In  notifying  Brown  that  his  offer  had  been  accepted, 
Mr.  Stearns  significantly  remarked,  "I  think  you  ought  to  go 
to  Kansas  as  soon  as  possible  and  give  Robinson  and  the  rest 
some  Backbone."  For  himself,  Mr.  Stearns  asked  only  that, 
if  he  paid  for  these  revolvers,  all  the  arms,  ammunition,  rifles, 
as  well  as  the  revolvers  not  used  for  the  defence  of  Kansas, 
be  held  as  pledged  to  him  for  the  payment  of  the  thirteen  hun- 
dred dollars.  The  Massachusetts  Kansas  Committee  by  formal 
vote  assented  to  this  suggestion. 

By  April  23,  Brown's  hopes  of  further  aid  had  vanished. 
On  that  day  he  wrote  to  his  family  from  New  Haven,  asking 
that  they  have  "some  of  the  friends"  drive  at  once  to  West- 
port  and  Elizabeth  town  to  meet  him."  But  he  was  in  Spring- 
field on  the  25th,  and  on  the  28th,  owing  to  an  attack  of  fever 
and  ague,  he  had  only  just  reached  Albany  on  his  way  to  North 


290  JOHN  BROWN 

Elba,  where  he  remained  about  two  weeks  with  his  family, 
before  leaving  for  Iowa  by  way  of  Vergennes,  Vermont.  From 
this  place  he  wrote  on  May  13  to  George  L.  Stearns,  "I  leave 
here  for  the  West  today,"  ^*  without  the  slightest  idea  that  it 
would  take  him  three  months  to  reach  the  rendezvous  in 
Tabor.  He  had  not,  however,  during  the  months  before  his 
departure,  lost  his  interest  in  Kansas  or  failed  to  keep  in  direct 
touch  with  the  situation  there.  Augustus  Wattles  and  James 
H.  Holmes  had  corresponded  with  him,  and  to  the  former 
Brown  had  written,  on  April  8,  the  following  letter,  which  not 
only  records  clearly  the  spirit  in  which  he  again  set  his  face 
toward  Kansas,  but  is  of  special  interest  because  it  appears 
to  be  the  first  one  to  which  he  signed  the  nom-de-plume 
"Nelson  Hawkins,"  that  later  appears  so  frequently  in  his 
correspondence : 

Boston,  Massachusetts  April  8,  1857. 
My  Dear  Sir:  Your  favor  of  the  15th  March,  and  that  of  friend 
H.  of  the  1 6th,  I  have  just  received.  I  cannot  express  my  gratitude 
for  them  both.  They  gi^  me  just  the  kind  of  news  I  was  most  oj  all 
things  anxious  to  hear /I  bless  God  that  he  has  not  left  the  free-State 
men  of  Kansas  to  pollute  themselves  by  the  foul  and  loathesome  em- 
brace of  the  old  rotten  whore.  I  have  been  trembling  all  along  lest 
they  might  back  down  from  the  high  and  holy  ground  they  had  taken. 
I  say,  in  view  of  the  wisdom,  firmness,  and  patience  of  my  friends 
and  fellow-sufferers,  (in  the  cause  of  humanity,)  let  God's  name  be 
eternally  praised  1  I  would  most  gladly  give  my  hand  to  all  whose 
"  garments  are  not  defiled ;  "  and  I  humbly  trust  that  I  shall  soon 
again  have  opportunity  to  rejoice  (or  suEer  further  if  need  be)  with 
you,  in  the  strife  between  Heaven  and  Hell.  I  wish  to  send  my  most 
cordial  and  earnest  salutation  to  every  one  of  the  chosen. /My  efforts 
this  way  have  not  been  altogether  fruitless.  I  wish  you  and  friend 
H.  both  to  accept  this  for  the  moment;  may  write  soon  again,  and 
hope  to  hear  from  you  both  at  Tabor,  Fremont  County,  Iowa  — 
Care  of  Jonas  Jones,  Esq. 

Your  sincere  friend, 

Nelson  Hawkins." 
Augustus  Wattles,  Esq. 

Lawrence,  Kansas  Territory. 

At  least  one  member  of  Brown's  family  was  disturbed  at 
the  father's  return  to  Kansas.  John  Brown,  Jr.,  wrote  to  him 
thus:  "  It  seems  as  though  if  you  return  to  Kansas  this  Spring 
I  should  never  see  you  again.   But  I  will  not  look  on  the  dark 


NEW   FRIENDS   FOR  OLD   VISIONS  291 

side.  You  have  gone  safely  through  a  thousand  perils  and 
hairbreadth  escapes."  ^  It  was  more  than  a  mere  undefined 
dread  that  worried  the  son.  His  views  as  to  the  political  situa- 
tion in  Kansas  are  set  forth  in  this  letter  with  noteworthy 
ability.  The  just  announced  return  of  James  H.  Lane  to  the 
Territory  would  give  an  opportunity  to  see  if  the  United 
States  authorities  there  were  still  bent  on  arresting  the  Free 
Soil  leaders,  and  whether  the  Free  Soilers  would  unresistingly 
submit  to  such  a  happening.  He  also  felt  that,  in  view  of  the 
renewed  hostilities  which  he  believed  were  at  hand,  it  would 
be  well  for  his  father  to  delay  his  entrance  into  Kansas,  and 
thus, 

"place  it  out  of  the  power  of  Croakers  to  say  that  the  'peace'  had 
been  broken  only  in  consequence  of  the  advent  there  of  such  dis- 
turbers as  'Jim  Lane'  and  'Old  Brown.'  And  further,  when  war 
begins,  if  the  people  there  take  the  right  ground,  you  could  raise  and 
take  in  with  you  a  force  which  might  in  truth  become  a  'liberating 
army,'  when  they  most  stood  in  need  of  help." 

John  Brown,  Jr.,  then  admitted  that  he  feared  that  the 
Kansans,  for  whom  his  father  was  ready  to  peril  his  life,  would, 
out  of  their  slavish  regard  for  Federal  authority,  be  ready  to 
"hand  you  over  to  the  tormentor."  The  extent  to  which  he 
was  in  his  father's  confidence,  and  the  way  in  which  both  their 
minds  were  working  upon  the  great  post-Kansas  project, 
appears  clearly  from  a  question  in  this  same  letter:  "Do  you 
not  intend  to  visit  Canada  before  long?  That  school  can  be 
established  there,  if  not  elsewhere." 

However  much  he  may  have  taken  his  son's  warnings  to 

heart,  John  Brown  left  for  Kansas  master  of  considerable  sup- 

!  plies.   On  May  18,  Mr.  Stearns  estimated  that  the  contri- 

;  butions  of  arms,  clothing,  etc.,  of  which  Brown  had  entire 

i,  control,  were  worth  $13,000."  A  careful  count  of  the  sums  he 

is  known  to  have  received  after  January  i  shows  that  they 

aggregated  $2363,  exclusive  of  the  $1000  raised  by  Lawrence 

and  Stearns  for  the  purchase  of  the  North  Elba  land.  Out  of 

this  sum  had  come  travelling  expenses,  some  provision  for  his 

family,  the  $550  paid  for  the  pikes,  and  the  $600  absorbed 

by  Forbes.    To  it  must  be  added  the  $350  given  to  him  in 

Chicago  on  June  22  by  Gerrit  Smith.  The  total  sum  he  raised 


292  JOHN  BROWN 

was,  of  course,  larger  than  this;  he  obtained,  for  instance, 
some  small  gifts  in  Chicago.  One  large  credit  he  did  not  use. 
In  his  enthusiasm  for  the  cause,  his  admiration  of  the  man 
and  his  complete  confidence  in  Brown's  "courage,  prudence 
and  good  judgment,"  Stearns  gave  his  Kansas  friend  authority 
to  draw  upon  him  for  I7000,  as  it  was  needed,  to  subsist  the 
one  hundred  "volunteer-regulars,"  provided  that  it  became 
necessary  to  call  that  number  into  active  service  in  Kansas  in 
1857.*^  This  emergency  not  occurring.  Brown  returned  the 
credit  untouched.  Mr.  Stearns,  be  it  noted,  testified  in  1859 
that,  in  addition  to  everything  else,  he  had  from  time  to  time 
given  Brown  money  of  which  he  never  kept  any  record. 
Counting  the  credit  of  $7000,  the  supplies  worth  $13,000,  and 
estimating  the  other  cash  contributions  at  only  $3000,  it  ap- 
pears that  Brown  was  successful  in  raising  $23,000  toward  his 
project  of  putting  a  company  into  the  field.  But  his  inability 
to  use  the  ^7000  en  route,  and  his  long  delay  in  reaching  Tabor, 
together  with  necessary  expenditures  for  horses  and  wagons 
and  wages,  reduced  him  soon  to  distress.  When  he  arrived  at 
his  base  of  action.  Tabor,  he  had  only  twenty- five  dollars  left." 
Various  causes  contributed  to  Brown's  delay.  He  was  at 
Canastota  on  May  14,  at  Peterboro  on  May  18,  reached 
Cleveland  on  May  22,  and  Akron  the  next  day.  On  May  27 
he  wrote  from  Hudson  that  he  was  "still  troubled  with  the 
ague"  and  was  "  much  confused  in  mind."  If  he  should  never 
return,  he  wished  that  "no  other  monument  be  used  to  keep 
me  in  remembrance  than  the  same  plain  old  one  that  records 
the  death  of  my  Grandfather  &  Son  &  that  a  short  story  like 
those  already  on  it  be  told  of  John  Brown  the  5th  under  that 
of  Grandfather."  **  He  added  that  he  was  already  very  short 
of  expense  money,  and  that  he  did  not  expect  to  leave  for  four 
or  five  days.  On  June  3,  while  still  at  Hudson,  he  wrote  thus 
to  Augustus  Wattles,  over  the  name  of  "James  Smith:" 

My  Dear  Sir  :  I  write  to  say  that  I  started  for  Kansas  some  three 
weeks  or  more  since,  but  have  been  obliged  to  stop  for  the  fever 
and  ague.  I  am  now  righting  up,  and  expect  to  be  on  my  way  again 
soon.  Free-State  men  need  have  no  fear  of  my  desertion.  There 
are  some  half  dozen  men  I  want  a  visit  from  at  Tabor,  Iowa,  to 
come  off  in  the  most  QUIET  WAY,  viz:  Daniel  Foster,  late  of  Bos- 
ton Massachusetts;  Holmes,  Frazee,  a  Mr.  Hill  and  William  David, 


NEW   FRIENDS   FOR  OLD   VISIONS  293 

on  Little  Ottawa  creek;  a  Mr.  Cochran,  on  Pottawatomie  creek; 
or  I  would  like  equally  well  to  see  Dr.  Updegraff  and  5.  H.  Wright, 
of  Ossawatomie;  or  William  Phillips,  or  CONWAY,  or  your  honor. 
I  have  some  very  important  matters  to  confer  with  some  of  you 
about.  Let  there  be  no  words  about  it.  Should  any  of  you  come  out  to 
see  me  wait  at  Tabor  if  you  get  th&re  first.  Mr.  Adair,  at  Ossawato- 
mie, may  supply  ($50,)  fifty  dollars,  (if  need  be),  for  expenses  on 
my  account  on  presentation  of  this.  Write  me  at  Tabor,  Iowa,  Fre- 
mont County."^ 

On  the  9th  of  June,  Brown  wrote  to  William  A.  Phillips  in  a 
similar  strain,  to  which  Phillips  replied  from  Lawrence  on  June 
24, «^  saying  that  neither  he  nor  Holmes  nor  others  whom  he 
had  seen  could  go  to  Tabor,  that  there  was  then  no  necessity 
for  military  measures,  and  that  the  arms  were  safer  with  Brown 
than  with  any  one  else.  If  he  came  into  Kansas,  he  would  be 
protected.  Wattles's  reply  was  similarly  discouraging,  bring- 
ing the  oracular  advice:  "Come  as  quickly  as  possible,  or 
not  come  at  present,  as  you  choose.""  Frazee  (the  teamster 
who  had  taken  Brown  out  of  Kansas  in  the  previous  fall)  had 
not  returned;  Foster,  Mr.  Wattles  did  not  know;  Holmes  was 
ploughing  at  Emporia,  and  Conway  and  Phillips  were  talking 
politics.  Meanwhile,  Brown  had  visited  Milwaukee  on  June 
16,  for  what  specific  purpose  is  not  known;  he  had  tried  to 
induce  Forbes  to  meet  him  in  Cleveland  on  June  17,^*  and 
then  went  to  Chicago  to  meet  Gerrit  Smith.  On  June  24  he 
attended  at  Tallmadge,  Ohio,  the  semi-centennial  of  the 
founding  of  that  town.  The  address  was  delivered  by  the  Rev. 
Leonard  Bacon.  At  its  close,  a  message  came  to  the  speaker 
that  John  Brown  was  present  and  would  like  to  speak  about 
Kansas.  Mr.  Bacon  sent  back  word  to  Brown  that  any  such 
address  would  be  "entirely  inconsistent  with  the  character  of 
the  occasion,"  —  a  happening  which  inspired  Mr.  Bacon  to 
write  to  Governor  Wise,  after  Brown's  capture,  that  it  was  to 
many  at  Tallmadge  proof  of  Brown's  evident  derangement  on 
the  slavery  question. «'  Brown's  pocket  memorandum-book,  a 
rough  diary  from  January  12,  1857,  on,  contains  this  entry 
on  June  29,  also  showing  that  he  had  returned  to  Ohio  from 
Chicago:  "June  29th  Wrote  Joseph  Bryant  Col  Forbes,  and  D 
Lee  Child;  all  that  I  leave  here  Cleveland  this  day  for  Tabor, 
Iowa;  &  advise  Forbes,  &  Child,  to  call  on  Jonas  Jones." 

By  July  6  the  memorandum-book  records  Brown's  pre- 


294  JOHN  BROWN 

sence  in  Iowa  City.  Here  he  received  word  from  Richard 
Realf ,  for  some  time  to  come  one  of  his  followers,  and  after- 
wards well  known  as  a  poet  of  no  mean  ability,  that  he  was 
awaiting  him  at  Tabor  with  one  hundred  and  ten  dollars 
—  the  hundred  and  fifty  of  National  Kansas  Committee 
money,  minus  Realf's  expenses.  This  money  had  been  sent 
to  Brown  on  June  30  by  Edmund  B.  Whitman,  the  Commit- 
tee's agent  in  Lawrence,  in  response  to  an  urgent  appeal  from 
Brown,  to  whom  Realf  wrote  also  the  good  news  that,  as  the 
government  had  entered  a  nolle  prosequi  in  the  case  of  the 
Free  State  prisoners.  Brown  need  be  under  "no  apprehension 
of  insecurity  to  yourself  or  the  munitions  you  may  bring  with 
you."  ™  By  July  17,  Brown  had  only  reached  Wassonville, 
Iowa.  He  had  had  to  obtain  two  teams  and  two  wagons  at 
a  cost  of  seven  hundred  and  eighty-six  dollars,  and  to  hire  a 
teamster  (his  third  son,  Owen,  who  had  been  at  Tabor  for  a 
time).  He  had  had  to  "rig  up  and  load"  the  teams,  and  in 
consequence  of  an  injury  to  a  horse,  he  had  lost  ten  days  on 
the  road.  In  order  to  make  their  scant  funds  hold  out,  "and  to 
avoid  notice,"  he  and  his  son  "lived  exclusively  on  herring, 
soda  crackers,  and  sweetened  water  for  more  than  three  weeks 
(sleeping  every  night  in  our  wagons),  except  that  twice  we  got 
a  little  milk  and  a  few  times  some  boiled  eggs."  "  At  last,  on 
August  7,  he  and  his  son  reached  their  old  quarters  in  Tabor, 
the  home  of  Jonas  Jones. 

By  this  time  it  was  perfectly  apparent  that  there  was  to  be 
no  bloodshed  in  Kansas  that  summer.  There  was  another  new 
Governor  in  the  Territory,  Robert  J.  Walker,  of  Mississippi, 
who  had  succeeded  Governor  Geary  after  that  official's  resig- 
nation in  March,  because  of  the  failure  of  the  pro-slavery 
Pierce  administration  to  give  him  proper  support.  So  fair  an 
historian  as  Mr.  Rhodes  has  declared  that  Geary  was  an  ideal 
Governor,^^  and  a  study  of  his  brief  administration  of  Kansas 
inevitably  leads  to  the  conclusion  that,  whatever  his  faults, 
he  strove  earnestly  to  be  judicial  and  honorable,  and  to  bring 
peace  and  justice  to  Kansas.  Like  Reeder,  Geary  was  a  firm 
Democrat,  and  like  him  he  left  Kansas  convinced  of  the  right- 
eousness of  the  Free  State  cause.  Walker,  his  successor,  had 
been  Senator  from  Mississippi,  Secretary  of  the  Treasury,  had 
practically  framed  the  tariff  act  of  1846,  and  was,  therefore. 


NEW   FRIENDS   FOR  OLD   VISIONS  295 

well  known  to  the  country  as  a  politician  of  more  than  usual 
ability  and  standing.  He  was  reluctant  to  go  to  Kansas,  where 
he  arrived  on  May  26,  having  obtained  before  his  depar- 
ture the  consent  of  the  new  President,  Buchanan,  that  any  Con- 
stitution for  the  State  of  Kansas  which  might  be  framed 
should  be  submitted  to  the  people.  His  appointment  in  itself 
helped  to  avert  any  outbreaks,  since  the  Southerners  felt  sure 
—  too  sure  —  that  he  was  one  of  their  own.  As  soon  as  it 
was  apparent  that  he  and  his  able  secretary  of  state,  Fred- 
erick P.  Stanton,  were  bent  on  seeing  justice  done,  the  pro- 
slavery  forces,  and  President  Buchanan  as  well,  turned  against 
them,  with  the  result  that  Secretary  Stanton  was  removed 
from  office,  and  Governor  Walker  resigned,  in  the  following 
December.  Walker,  the  fourth  governor  since  October  6, 
1854,  exceeded  by  only  thirty  days  Governor  Geary's  brief  stay 
of  six  months.'^ 

As  a  whole,  however,  the  outlook  for  freedom  in  Kansas 
was  comparatively  favorable  when  John  Brown  reached 
Tabor.  The  Lecompton  conspiracy,  by  which  a  pro-slavery 
Constitution  was  to  be  forced  on  Kansas  by  a  trick,  had  not 
yet  developed ;  and  while  there  had  been  sporadic  cases  of  law- 
lessness in  certain  counties,  and  James  T.  Lyle,  a  pro-slavery 
city  recorder  of  Leavenworth,  had  been  killed  by  William 
Haller,  a  Free  State  man,  in  an  affray  at  the  polls,  the  year 
1857  was,  on  the  whole,  one  of  quiet  and  progress  for  the  bona 
fide  settlers  of  Kansas.  Free  Soilers  were  pouring  into  the 
State  in  large  force,  and  the  number  of  slaves  remained  so  small 
that  both  sides  realized  the  growing  ascendency  of  the  Free 
Soil  cause.  The  Topeka,  or  Free  State,  Legislature  had  met  on 
January  6,  7  and  8,  when  a  dozen  of  its  members  had  been 
arrested  and  taken  to  Tecumseh ;  it  met  again  in  Topeka  on 
June  13,  without  interference  from  Governor  Walker,  and  ad- 
journed four  days  later  after  passing  some  excellent  measures. 
About  this  time,  there  was  a  Free  State  convention  in  Topeka, 
presided  over  by  General  Lane,  which  endorsed  the  Topeka 
movement,  urged  Free  State  men  not  to  participate  in  the 
15th  of  June  election  of  delegates  to  the  Lecompton  Con- 
stitutional convention,  and  declared  the  Territorial  laws  to 
be  without  force.  A  similar  Free  State  convention  met  in 
Topeka  on  July  15  and  16,  with  James  H.  Lane  again  presid- , 


296  JOHN  BROWN 

ing  and  Governor  Robinson  as  one  of  the  speakers.  It  called 
a  mass  convention  for  August  26,  at  Grasshopper  Falls,  urged 
upon  the  Governor  the  propriety  of  submitting  the  Topeka 
Constitution  to  the  people,  and  made  nominations  for  the  of- 
fices to  be  filled  at  the  coming  Free  State  election  on  August 
9.  Meanwhile,  in  accordance  with  what  afterwards  seemed  a 
gravely  mistaken  decision  of  the  Topeka  convention  of  June 
9,  the  Free  State  men  had  declined  to  participate  in  the  elec- 
tion of  June  15  for  delegates  to  the  Constitutional  convention. 
Only  twenty-two  hundred  pro-slavery  votes  were  cast  in  all, 
which  showed  that  the  Free  State  men  could  easily  have  out- 
voted their  enemies,  as  was  clearly  proved  when  more  than 
seventy-two  hundred  anti-slavery  votes  were  cast  at  the  Free 
State  election  of  August  9.  It  was  then  too  late ;  the  Lecompton 
Constitutional  convention  was  in  the  hands  of  the  pro-slavery 
men,  headed  by  the  Surveyor-General,  John  Calhoun,  a  bitter 
and  unscrupulous  slavery  champion.  They  agreed  upon  a  Con- 
stitution which  had  been  carefully  prepared  by  the  Southern 
leaders  in  Washington,  and  lent  themselves  readily  to  the 
plan  to  get  slavery  into  Kansas  without  the  consent  of  the 
majority  of  its  bona  fide  inhabitants. 

The  Free  State  election  of  August  9  was  held  two  days 
after  Brown's  arrival  at  Tabor.  The  heavy  vote  cast  was 
fresh  proof  of  the  ascendency  of  the  party  of  peace  among 
the  Free  State  men.  The  Grasshopper  Falls  convention 
also  showed,  by  its  decision  to  participate  in  the  election 
of  October  5  for  Territorial  delegate,  that  the  drift  was 
toward  working  out  a  Kansas  victory  by  resort  to  the  time- 
honored  American  method  of  correcting  abuses  —  the  bal- 
lot-box. Governor  Walker  guaranteed  a  fair  election,  and 
lived  up  to  his  promise  by  setting  aside  fraudulent  returns. 
Robinson  and  Lane  favored  taking  part  in  the  election,  Con- 
way, Phillips  and  Redpath,  three  of  Brown's  staunchest 
friends,  opposing.  Altogether,  Brown  found  that  nothing  had 
been  lost  by  the  long  delay  in  his  arrival  near  the  scene  of 
action;  there  was  not  the  slightest  need  for  his  "volunteer- 
regulars;"  the  only  time  Governor  Walker  had  ordered  out 
the  United  States  troops  was  when  dissatisfied  with  the 
holding  of  an  independent  city  election  at  Lawrence  on 
July  13.    This  course  the  Governor  denounced  as  certain 


NEW   FRIENDS   FOR  OLD  VISIONS  297 

to  mean  treason  and  bring  on  "all  the  horrors  of  civil  war," 
if  persisted  in.  His  prompt  action  discouraged  the  radicals 
under  Lane,  who  thereupon  was  the  more  ready  for  a  dif- 
ferent course.  Rifles  the  Free  State  men  had  at  this  moment 
no  need  of  or  desire  for.  As  to  becoming  a  political  leader 
and  putting  the  stiffening  into  Robinson's  backbone,  for 
which  Mr.  Stearns  and  others  hoped,  that  was  a  line  of  ac- 
tion not  to  Brown's  taste,  and  the  defeat  of  his  friends  in  the 
Grasshopper  Falls  convention  must  have  added  to  his  dis- 
satisfaction with  Kansas  conditions.  It  is  not,  therefore,  sur- 
prising if  his  mind  turned  more  and  more  to  the  coming  raid 
against  slavery  along  a  more  timid  and  more  vulnerable 
frontier  than  that  of  Missouri. 

The  day  after  his  arrival  at  Tabor,  John  Brown  wrote  to 
Mr.  Stearns  of  his  various  disappointments,  hindrances 
and  lack  of  means;  these  and  ill-health  had  depressed  him 
greatly.  Two  days  later  he  wrote  again  and  in  better  spir- 
its.''' He  was  "in  immediate  want  of  from  Five  Hundred  to 
One  Thousand  Dollars  for  secret  service  &  no  questions  asked." 
"Rather  interesting  times"  were  expected  in  Kansas,  he 
wrote,  "but  no  great  excitement  is  reported."  "Our  next 
advices,"  he  continued,  "may  entirely  change  the  aspect  of 
things.  I  hope  the  friends  of  Freedom  will  respond  to  my 
call:  &  'prove  me  now  herewith.'"  He  had  "learned  with 
gratitude"  what  had  been  done  to  render  his  wife  and  chil- 
dren comfortable  by  the  purchase  of  the  Thompson  farm. 
Then,  as  the  result  of  Forbes's  arrival,  he  forwarded  to  Mr. 
Stearns  "the  first  number  of  a  series  of  Tracts  lately  gotten 
up  here,"  of  which  Forbes,  and  not  Brown,  was  the  author. 
It  is  entitled  'The  Duty  of  the  Soldier,'  and  is  headed,  in 
small  type,  "Presented  with  respectful  and  kind  feelings 
to  the  Officers  and  Soldiers  of  the  United  States  Army  in 
Kansas,"  the  object  being  to  win  them  from  their  allegiance 
to  their  colors  and  induce  them  to  support  the  Free  State 
cause.  This  it  does  indirectly  by  asking  whether  the  "sol- 
diery of  a  Republic"  should  be  "vile  living  machines  and 
thus  sustain  Wrong  against  Right."  There  are  but  three 
printed  pages  of  rambling  and  discursive  discussion  of  the 
soldiery  of  the  ancient  republics,  and  of  the  princes  of  an- 
tiquity, and  a  consideration  of  authority,  legitimate  and 


298  JOHN  BROWN 

illegitimate  —  as  ill-fitted  as  possible  an  appeal  to  the  regu- 
lar soldier  of  1857.  To  the  copy  which  he  sent  to  Augustus 
Wattles,  Brown  appended  the  following  in  his  own  hand- 
writing, as  a  "closing  remark:" 

It  is  as  much  the  duty  of  the  common  soldier  of  the  U  S  Army 
according  to  his  ability  and  opportunity,  to  be  informed  upon  all 
subjects  in  any  way  affecting  the  political  or  general  welfare  of  his 
country:  &  to  watch  with  jealous  vigilance,  the  course,  &  man- 
agement of  all  public  functionaries  both  civil  and  military:  and  to 
govern  his  actions  as  a  citizen  Soldier  accordingly :  as  though  he  were 
President  of  the  United  States. 

Respectfully  yours,  A  Soldier." 

Other  copies  John  Brown  sent  to  Sanborn,  Theodore 
Parker  and  Governor  Chase,  of  Ohio,"  asking  each  for  his 
frank  opinion  of  the  tract  and  also  for  aid  in  raising  the 
five  hundred  to  one  thousand  dollars  he  needed  so  sorely. 
Sanborn,  and  probably  Parker,  wrote  his  disapproval  of 
Forbes's  attempt  to  seduce  the  soldiery  of  the  Union;  and 
only  Gerrit  Smith,  to  whom  Forbes  himself  sent  a  copy  with 
an  appeal  for  help  for  his  family  in  Paris,  seems  to  have  been 
pleased  with  it.  He  thought  it  "very  well  written,"  and 
added,  "Forbes  will  make  himself  very  useful  to  our  Kan- 
sas work."  For  the  Forbes  family  he  subscribed  twenty-five 
dollars,  and  urged  Thaddeus  Hyatt  to  raise  some  money  in 
New  York  for  this  purpose  and  forward  it  to  Sanborn  "as 
soon  as  you  can."  " 

But  Forbes's  usefulness  to  Brown  was  not  of  long  dura- 
tion; by  November  2  he  was  on  his  way  back  to  the  East 
from  Nebraska  City.'^  He  had  found  no  one  at  Tabor  to 
drill  save  his  employer  and  one  son,  Owen;  and  no  funds 
save  sixty  dollars,  which  Brown  gave  to  him  (doubtless  out 
of  the  National  Kansas  Committee's  one  hundred  and  ten) 
toward  his  expenses.'''  Rifle-shooting  at  a  target  on  the  out- 
skirts of  Tabor  was  their  out-door  drill,  while  in-doors  they 
studied  Forbes's  'Manual  of  the  Patriotic  Volunteer,'  and 
discussed  military  tactics  and  their  respective  plans  in  re- 
gard to  the  raid  into  Virginia.*" 

One  of  those  who  met  John  Brown  at  this  time,  the  Rev. 
H.  D.  King,  now  of  Kinsman,  Ohio,  records  thus  his  recol- 
lections of  some  of  their  table  talk:" 


NEW   FRIENDS   FOR  OLD  VISIONS  299 

"I  tried  to  get  at  his  theology.  It  was  a  subject  naturally  sug- 
gested by  my  daily  work.  But  I  never  could  force  him  down  to  dry 
sober  talk  on  what  he  thought  of  the  moral  features  of  things  in 
general.  He  would  not  express  himself  on  little  diversions  from  the 
common  right  for  the  accomplishment  of  a  greater  good.  For  him 
there  was  only  one  wrong,  and  that  was  slavery.  He  was  rather 
skeptical,  I  think.  Not  an  infidel,  but  not  bound  by  creeds.  He  was 
somewhat  cranky  on  the  subject  of  the  Bible,  as  he  was  on  that  of 
killing  people.  He  believed  in  God  and  Humanity,  but  his  attitude 
seemed  to  be : '  We  don't  know  anything  about  some  things.  We  do 
not  know  about  the  humanity  matter.  If  any  great  obstacle  stand  in 
the  way,  you  may  properly  break  all  the  Decalogue  to  get  rid  of  it.' " 

"We  are  beginning  to  take  lessons  &  have  (we  think)  a  very 
capable  Teacher.  Should  no  disturbance  occour:  we  may  pos- 
sibly think  best  to  work  back  eastward.  Cannot  determine  yet," 
wrote  Brown  to  his  wife  and  children  on  August  17.'''  But 
this  life  at  Tabor  soon  palled  on  Forbes,  particularly  as  there 
was  a  sharp  disagreement  between  Brown  and  himself  as  to 
the  future  campaign,  and  increasing  evidence  that  there  was 
to  be  no  active  service  in  Kansas  that  year.  The  needs  of 
his  family  weighed  heavily  upon  him,  and  a  growing  sense 
of  wrong  done  him  by  the  Massachusetts  friends  of  Brown, 
whom  Forbes  dubbed  "The  Humanitarians,"  in  not  supply- 
ing the  salary  Brown  had  promised,  led  to  bitter  denunciations 
of  them  soon  after  Forbes  arrived  in  the  East. 

Jonas  Jones  and  the  Rev.  John  Todd  having  promptly 
turned  over  to  Brown  the  arms  stored  in  the  clergyman's 
cellar,  he  was  able  to  write  on  August  13  to  Sanborn  that  he 
had  overhauled  and  cleaned  up  those  that  were  most  rusted. 
All  were  in  "middlihg  good  order."  "  The  question  then  was 
how  to  get  them  to  Kansas,  and  this  involved  also  a  deci- 
sion as  to  Brown's  owr  policy.  Although  apparently  anxious 
to  return  to  Kansas  at  once,  he  did  not  leave  Tabor  for  the 
Territory  until  the  day  he  saw  Forbes  off  for  the  East  at 
Nebraska  City,  November  2.  Various  reasons  are  apparently 
responsible  for  the  delay :  the  failure  of  Kansas  friends  to  come 
to  him;  the  desire  to  await  the  outcome  of  the  fall  elections; 
an  injury  to  his  back,  and  a  recurrence  of  his  fever  and  ague. 
The  arms  were  finally  left  behind;  when  Brown  started  for 
Lawrence,  he  went  in  a  wagon  drawn  by  two  horses  and  driven 
by  his  son  Owen. 


300  JOHN  BROWN 

As  to  Brown's  return  to  Kansas,  James  H.  Holmes  wrote, 
on  August  i6,"  that  there  might  be  a  very  good  opening  for 
the  "business,"  for  which  Brown  had  bought  his  "stock  of 
materials,  .  .  .  about  the  first  Monday  in  October  next.  .  .  . 
I  am  sorry,"  he  continued, 

"that  you  have  not  been  here,  in  the  territory,  before.  I  think  that 
the  sooner  you  come  the  better  so  that  the  people  &  the  Territo- 
rial authorities  may  become  familiarized  with  your  presence.  This 
is  also  the  opinion  of  all  other  friends  with  whom  I  have  conversed 
on  this  subject.  You  could  thus  exert  more  influence.  Several  times 
we  have  needed  you  very  much." 

But  Augustus  Wattles,  a  wise  counsellor,  wrote  on  August 
21  without  enthusiasm  as  to  Brown's  final  arrival,  that 
"those  who  had  entertained  the  idea  of  resistance  [to  outside 
authority]  have  entirely  abandoned  the  idea."*'  Only  the 
erratic  Lane,  who  was  then  the  sole  person  trying  to  stir  up 
strife  in  Kansas,  and  is  accused  by  reputable  witnesses  of 
planning  schemes  of  wholesale  massacre  of  pro-slavery  men 
through  a  secret  order,  was  on  fire  for  Brown's  presence 
in  the  Territory,  but  it  was  the  Tabor  arms  rather  than 
their  owner  he  really  desired.  His  first  letter  to  Brown  ran 
thus: 

(Private) 

Lawrence  Sept.  7, 57. 
Sir 

We  are  earnestly  engaged  in  perfecting  an  organization  for  the 
protection  of  the  ballot  box  at  the  October  election  (first  Monday.) 
Whitman  &  Abbott  have  been  east  after  money  &  arms  for  a  month 
past,  they  write  encouragingly,  &  will  be  back  in  a  few  days.  We 
want  you  with  all  the  materials  you  have.  I  see  no  objection  to  your 
coming  into  Kansas  publicly.  I  can  furnish  you  just  such  a  force 
as  you  may  deem  necessary  for  your  protection  here  &  after  you 
arrive.   I  went  up  to  see  you  but  failed. 

Now  what  is  wanted  is  this  —  write  me  concisely  what  trans- 
portation you  require,  how  much  money  &  the  number  of  men 
to  escort  you  into  the  Territory  safely  &  if  you  desire  it  I  will 
come  up  with  them. 

Yours  respectfully 

J.  H.  Lane." 

To  this  Brown  replied,  on  the  i6th  of  September,"  that 
he  had  previously  written  to  Lane  of  his  "strong  desire"  to 


NEW   FRIENDS   FOR  OLD   VISIONS  301 

see  him;  "as  to  the  job  of  work  you  enquire  about  I  suppose 
that  three  good  teams  with  well  covered  waggons,  &  ten  really 
ingenious,  industrious  men  (not  gassy)  with  about  $150.  in 
cash,  could  bring  it  about  in  the  course  of  eight  or  ten  days." 
Before  an  answer  to  this  could  arrive,  Brown  learned  from 
Redpath,  who  also  hoped  to  see  him  in  the  Territory  soon, 
that  Lane  had  appointed  him  "Brigadier-General  2nd  Bri- 
gade 1st  Division,"  88  rather  an  empty  honor,  for  Lane  was  as 
generous  with  brigadier-generalcies  as  a  profligate  European 
potentate  with  decorations  for  his  creditors,  even  casual  vis- 
itors to  the  Territory  receiving  these  commissions.^'  Certain 
it  is  that  this  distinction  did  not  cause  Brown  to  exert  himself 
additionally  to  enter  Kansas,  not  even  when  there  appeared 
a  Mr.  Jamison,  who  bore  the  high-sounding  title  of  "Quarter- 
master-General of  the  Second  Division."  "General"  Jamison 
brought  a  letter  from  Lane,  dated  Falls  City,  September  29,'° 
declaring  that  "it  is  all  important  to  Kansas  that  your  things 
should  be  in  at  the  earliest  possible  moment  &  that  you  should  be 
much  nearer  at  hand  than  you  are."  He  enclosed  fifty  dollars, 
added  that  "Gen'l"  Jamison  had  more,  and  insisted  that 
"every  gun  and  all  the  ammunition"  be  sent  in.  "I  do  not 
know  that  we  will  have  to  use  them,  but  I  do  know  we  should 
be  prepared."  All  of  this  made  not  the  slightest  impression 
on  Brown,  as  Jamison  came  alone,  having  left  the  ten  staunch 
men  Brown  had  asked  for  "about  thirty  miles  back."  The 
names  of  these  men  were  all  unknown  to  him,  and  on  inquir- 
ing about  Jamison,  Brown  found  that  "Tabor  folks  (some  of 
them)  speak  slightingly  of  him,  notwithstanding  that  he  too 
is  a  general." ''  Moreover,  Jamison  brought  no  teams  with 
him.   Brown  thereupon  returned  the  fifty  dollars  to  Lane  with 

the  following  letter:  '^ 

Tabor  Iowa  30  Sept.  57. 
My  dear  sir 

Your  favor  from  Falls  City  by  Mr.  Jamison  is  just  received  also 
$50.  (fifty  dollars)  sent  by  him,  which  I  also  return  by  same  hand  as 
I  find  it  will  be  next  to  impossible  in  my  poor  state  of  health  to  go 
through  in  such  very  short  notice,  four  days  only  remaining  to  get 
ready  load  up  &  go  through.  I  think,  considering  all  the  uncertain- 
ties of  the  case  want  of  teams  &c,  that  I  should  do  wrong  to  set  out. 
I  am  disappointed  in  the  extreme. 

Very  respectfully  your  friend 

John  Brown. 


302  JOHN  BROWN 

The  next  day,  Brown  wrote  at  length  to  Mr.  Sanborn,  en- 
closing copies  of  his  correspondence  with  Lane."  He  outlined 
his  immediate  future  as  follows:  "I  intend  at  once  to  put  the 
supplies  I  have  in  a  secure  place,  and  then  to  put  myself  and 
such  as  may  go  with  me  where  we  may  get  more  speedy  com- 
munications, and  can  wait  until  we  know  better  how  to  act 
than  we  do  now."  He  also  wrote:  "  I  am  now  so  far  recovered 
from  my  hurt  as  to  be  able  to  do  a  little;  and  foggy  as  it  is, 
'we  do  not  give  up  the  ship.'  I  will  not  say  that  Kansas,  wa- 
tered by  the  tears  and  blood  of  my  children,  shall  yet  be  free 
or  I  fall."  Brave  as  this  sentiment  is,  it  only  increases  the 
mystery  of  Brown's  delaying  at  Tabor.  In  this  same  letter 
to  Sanborn,  he  wrote  in  high  praise  of  Lane's  speech  at  the 
Grasshopper  Falls  convention,  and  throughout,  Lane  had  been 
more  sympathetic  to  Brown  than  any  of  the  other  Kansas 
leaders.  There  is  nothing  to  show  that  the  injury  of  which 
he  wrote  twice  to  Lane  was  a  serious  one.  Brown  did  not  re- 
port it  to  Mr.  Sanborn  in  his  long  letter  of  August  13,  after 
his  arrival  in  Tabor,  nor  is  there  any  mention  of  it  in  his 
family  letters  of  this  period,  so  far  as  they  have  been  preserved. 
True,  his  financial  conditions  had  not  improved,  because  he 
had  apparently  received  from  the  East  only  $72.68,  which 
came  from  James  Hunnewell,  Treasurer  of  the  Middlesex 
County  Massachusetts  Kansas  Aid  Committee.'*  Besides 
having  Owen  Brown  and  Hugh  Forbes  to  aid  him,  he  was 
in  a  community  not  only  intensely  Abolition,  but  at  this 
time  extremely  loyal  to  him  personally,  and  ready  to  help. 
Yet  there  was  none  of  the  determination  to  reach  Kansas  at 
any  cost,  to  be  expected  from  the  iron-nerved  man  who  cap- 
tured Harper's  Ferry.  An  excuse  given  by  Brown  to  Mr.  San- 
born was  the  lack  of  news:  "  I  had  not  been  able  to  learn  by 
papers  or  otherwise  distinctly  what  course  had  been  taken  in 
Kansas  until  within  a  few  days;  and  probably  the  less  I  have 
to  say  the  better."  Still,  he  had  received  a  number  of  letters 
from  friends  in  Kansas,  and  Tabor  was  always  obtaining 
news  from  there.  Why  did  he  not  despatch  Owen  Brown  or 
Forbes,  or  go  himself  quietly,  if  he  was  in  doubt? 

Four  days  after  writing  as  above  to  Mr.  Sanborn,  Brown's 
state  of  mind  appears  from  a  letter  of  October  5  to  the  Adairs 
at  Osawatomie,"  in  which  he  said: 


NEW   FRIENDS   FOR  OLD  VISIONS  303 

"  I  have  been  trying  all  season  to  get  to  Kansas;  but  have  failed 
as  yet  through  ill  health,  want  of  means  to  pay  Freights,  travelling 
expenses  &c.  How  to  act  now;  I  do  not  know.  If  you  have  not  already 
sent  me  the  $95  sent  for  me;  to  my  family  last  season;  I  would  be 
most  glad  to  have  it  come  by  Mr.  Charles  P.  Tidd;  if  you  can  do  it 
without  distressing  yourself,  or  family." 

In  addition,  he  asked  for  all  that  Mr.  Adair  could  tell  him 
about  conditions  in  Kansas,  and  for  "reliable  Kansas  late 
papers."  Obviously,  Brown,  grim,  self-willed,  resolute  chief- 
tain that  he  generally  was,  appears  baffled  here  and  lacking 
wholly  in  a  determination  to  reach  the  scene  of  action  at  any 
cost.  Whether  it  was  because  of  physical  disability;  or  fear  of 
arrest  and  punishment  for  the  Pottawatomie  crimes;  or  mere 
uncertainty  as  to  the  drift  of  affairs  in  Kansas ;  or  whether  his 
mind  was  now  so  bent  on  Virginia  that  he  had  lost  interest 
in  all  else,  and  did  not  wish  to  lose  his  arms;  or  whether  the 
physical  and  financial  difficulties  were  insurmountable,  or 
because  of  all  these  reasons,  that  he  lingered  so  long  in  Tabor, 
is  not  likely  ever  to  become  known.  It  will  be  seen  that, 
when  he  finally  reached  Kansas,  he  stayed  but  a  few  days, 
was  practically  in  hiding,  and  gave  more  time  and  thought 
to  securing  recruits  for  Harper's  Ferry  than  to  anything 
else. 

At  least  one  of  the  Massachusetts  backers  was  Impatient 
and  angry  at  the  delay,  —  Thomas  Wentworth  Higginson, 
then,  as  always  in  the  Abolition  days,  flaming  for  quick  and 
vigorous  action.  To  soothe  his  discontent,  Mr.  Sanborn  wrote 
to  him  thus  on  September  11,  in  defence  of  Brown: '«    , 

"...  You  do  not  understand  Brown's  circumstances.  .  .  .  He 
is  as  ready  for  a  revolution  as  any  other  man,  and  is  now  on  the 
borders  of  Kansas  safe  from  arrest  but  prepared  for  action,  but  he 
needs  money  for  his  present  expenses,  and  active  support.  I  believe 
he  is  the  best  Disunion  champion  you  can  find,  and  with  his  hundred 
men,  when  he  is  put  where  he  can  raise  them,  and  drill  them  (for  he 
has  an  expert  drill  officer  with  him)  will  do  more  to  split  the  Union 
than  a  list  of  50,000  names  for  your  Convention,  good  as  that  is. 

"What  I  am  trying  to  hint  at  is  that  the  friends  of  Kansas  are 
looking  with  strange  apathy  at  a  movement  which  has  all  the  ele- 
ments of  fitness  and  success  —  a  good  plan,  a  tried  leader,  and  a 
radical  purpose.  If  you  can  do  anything  for  it  now,  in  God's  name 
do  it  —  and  the  ill  result  of  the  new  policy  in  Kansas  may  be  pre- 
vented." 


304  JOHN  BROWN 

This  letter  is  of  special  value  in  view  of  subsequent  efforts 
to  make  Brown  appear  as  one  who  had  no  sympathy  with  the 
disunion  doctrines  of  the  radical  wing  of  the  Abolitionists." 
The  fact  remains  that  at  this  time  Brown  himself  was  not 
willing  to  do  and  dare  at  any  cost,  and  was  unable  to  triumph 
over  the  obstacles  that  confronted  him  at  Tabor,  until  finan- 
cial aid  finally  came  from  E.  B.  Whitman  in  Lawrence.  The 
latter  reported  to  Mr.  Stearns,  under  date  of  October  25,'* 
that  he  had  borrowed  one  hundred  and  fifty  dollars  to  send 
to  Brown,  who  would  be  at  Lawrence  "a  week  from  Tuesday 
[November  3]  at  a  very  important  council.  Free  State  Cen- 
tral Com.,  Ter.  Executive  Com.,  Vigilance  Committee  of  52, 
Generals  and  Capts  of  the  entire  organization."  "By  great 
sacrifice,"  wrote  Lane  to  Brown  on  October  30,''  "we  have 
raised,  &  send  by  Mr.  Tidd,  $150.  I  trust  the  money  will  be 
used  to  get  the  guns  to  Kansas,  or  as  near  as  possible.  .  .  . 
One  thing  is  certain:  if  they  are  to  do  her  any  good,  it  will  be 
in  the  next  few  days.  Let  nothing  interfere  in  bringing  them 
on."  This  time  Brown  accepted  the  money,  —  he  also  received 
one  hundred  dollars  from  the  Adairs  at  this  juncture,  — and 
entered  Kansas,  without,  however,  gratifying  Lane  by  bring- 
ing in  the  arms.  He  set  out  on  November  2,  parting  from 
Forbes  at  Nebraska  City,  and  drove  straight  to  the  vicinity  of 
Lawrence,  where  he  stopped  at  the  home  of  E.  B.  Whitman, 
arriving  after  the  council  at  which  Mr.  Whitman  had  hoped 
for  his  presence  —  probably  on  November  5. 

He  stayed  but  two  days  with  Mr.  Whitman,*  obtaining 
tents  and  bedding  and  some  more  money,  five  hundred  dol- 
lars, from  that  able  agent  of  the  Massachusetts  Kansas  Com- 
mittee, who,  in  the  following  February,  could  not  conceal  his 
vexation  at  Brown's  disappearance  from  Kansas.  After 
receiving  the  supplies,  wrote  Mr.  Whitman,"" 

"he  then  left,  declining  to  tell  me  or  anyone  where  he  was  going 
or  where  he  could  be  found,  pledging  himself,  however,  that  if 
difficulties  should  occur  he  would  be  on  hand  and  pledging  his  life 
to  redeem  Kansas  from  slavery.  Since  then  nothing  has  been  heard 
of  him  and  I  know  of  no  one,  not  even  his  most  intimate  friends, 

*  Among  those  he  saw  at  this  time  was  William  A.  Phillips,  who  recorded  in  the 
Atlantic  Monthly  for  December,  1879,  the  outlines  of  their  conversation,  which 
he  erroneously  placed  in  February,  1857,  instead  of  November  of  that  year. 


NEW   FRIENDS   FOR  OLD   VISIONS  305 

who  know  where  he  is.  In  the  meantime  he  has  been  much  wanted, 
and  very  great  dissatisfaction  has  been  expressed  at  his  course  and 
now  I  do  not  know  as  even  his  services  would  be  demanded  in  any 
emergency." 

It  is  interesting  to  note  in  this  connection  that,  in  Novem- 
ber, 1857,  a  Free  State  "Squatters'  Court"  was  organized  in 
the  southern  Kansas  counties  of  Linn,  Anderson  and  Bour- 
bon, for  the  trial  of  contested  land  claims  and  similar  cases. 
In  order  to  inspire  terror,  the  judge  of  the  court  was  called 
"Old  Brown,"  although  John  Brown  was  distant  from  the 
Territory.  Dr.  Rufus  Gilpatrick  was  elected  judge  of  the 
court.'"'  If  John  Brown  was  absent,  his  reputation  was  on 
hand  and  in  service. 

Within  a  week,  Brown  was  in  Topeka,  from  which  place  he 
reported  as  follows  to  Mr.  Stearns:""' 

Topeka  Kansas  T.  i6th  Nov  1857 
Dear  Friend 

I  have  now  been  in  Kansas  for  more  than  a  Week:  &  for  about 
Two  days  with  Mr.  Whitman,  &  other  friends  at  Lawrence.  I  find 
matters  quite  unsettled;  but  am  decidedly  of  the  opinion  that  there 
will  be  no  use  for  the  Arms  or  ammunition  here  before  another 
Spring.  I  have  them  all  safe,  &•  together  unbroken:  6"  mean  to  keep 
them  so:  until  I  can  see  how  the  matter  will  be  finally  terminated. 
I  have  many  calls  uppon  me  for  their  distribution;  but  shall  do  no 
such  thing  until  I  am  satisfyed  that  they  are  really  needed.  I  mean 
to  be  busily ;  but  very  quietly  engaged  in  perfecting  my  arangements 
during  the  Winter.  Whether  the  troubles  in  Kansas  will  continue  or 
not;  will  probably  depend  on  the  action  of  Congress  the  coming 
Winter.  Mr.  Whitman  has  paid  me  $500  for  you  which  will  meet 
present  wants  as  I  am  keeping  only  a  small  family.  Before  get- 
ting your  letter  saying  to  me  not  to  draw  on  you  for  the  $7000  (by 
Mr.  Whitman)  I  had  fully  determined  not  to  do  it  unless  driven 
to  the  last  extremity.  /  did  not  mean  that  the  secret  service  money 
I  asked  for;  should  come  out  of  you;  &  hope  it  may  not.  Please 
make  this  hasty  line  answer  for  friend  Sanborn;  &  for  other  friends 
for  this  time.  May  God  bless  you  all;  is  the  earnest  wish  of  your 
greatly  obliged  Friend 

John  Brown 

P  S  If  I  do  not  use  the  Arms  &  Ammunition  in  actu.al  service; 
I  intend  to  restore  them  unharmed ;  but  you  must  not  flatter  your- 
self on  that  score  too  soon. 

Yours  in  Truth 
J  B 


3o6  JOHN  BROWN 

To  the  Adairs  he  wrote  on  November  17 ii"'  "I  have  been 
for  some  days  in  the  territory  but  keeping  very  quiet,  & 
looking  about  to  see  how  the  land  lies.  We  left  Tabor  at  once 
on  the  return  of  Mr.  Tidd  who  brought  us  your  letter;  &  $100 
cash.  ...  I  do  not  wish  to  have  any  noise  about  me  at  pre- 
sent; as  /  do  not  mean  to  'trouble  Israel.'  "  Kansas  at  that 
time  was  quiet  enough,  despite  Lane's  feeling  that  the  arms 
might  be  needed.  The  election  of  October  5  for  the  new  Ter- 
ritorial Legislature  and  for  delegate  to  Congress  had  resulted 
in  a  great  Free  State  victory.  The  Free  State  men  elected 
their  delegate  by  4089  votes  and  chose  thirty-three  out  of 
fifty-two  members  of  the  Legislature.  Governor  Walker  set 
aside  the  fraudulent  returns  from  several  precincts  in  which 
there  had  been  scandalous  frauds ;  but  there  was  no  allegation 
of  interference  from  outside  the  State.  It  is  hard  to  understand 
what  vague  fears  or  wild  schemes  led  Lane  to  think  on 
October  30  that  there  might  be  some  important  happenings 
within  the  next  few  days.  Marcus  J.  Parrott,  the  Free  State 
delegate  to  Congress,  had  received  his  certificate  of  election, 
and  the  utmost  tranquillity  reigned.  The  Lecompton  Constitu- 
tional convention  did  not,  it  is  true,  adjourn  until  Novem- 
ber 3,  and  the  product  of  its  deliberation,  or  rather  of  the  delib- 
erations of  the  Southern  leaders  in  Washington,  was  not  yet 
on  its  way  to  the  Capitol,  where  the  debate  over  it,  with 
Stephen  A.  Douglas  opposed,  was  to  absorb  the  nation  for  a 
period  of  three  months,  February,  March  and  April  of  1858. 
But  Lane  was  not  justified,  even  then,  in  anticipating  any 
fraud  or  outrage  calling  for  forcible  intervention;  his  own 
opportunity,  in  which  he  was  at  his  best,  came  later  in  No- 
vember, when,  by  stumping  the  Territory,  he  largely  induced 
the  acting  Governor,  Stanton,  to  call  a  special  session  of  the 
Legislature  to  order  the  submission  of  the  Lecompton  Con- 
stitution to  the  people  for  approval. 

In  brief,  the  party  of  peace  was  in  the  ascendant;  even  in 
the  East  there  was  beginning  to  be  a  realization  that  successes 
at  the  polls  were  more  effective  than  "Beecher's  Bibles." 
Thus  Mr.  Stearns  wrote  on  November  14  to  E.  B.  Whit- 
man: i"*  "  I  believe  your  true  policy  is,  to  meet  the  enemy  at 
the  polls,  and  vote  them  down.  You  can  do  it  and  should  do 
it,  only  being  prepared  to  defend  yourselves  if  attacked  but 


NEW   FRIENDSFOR  OLD  VISIONS  307 

by  no  means  to  attack  them."  This  was  treachery  to' Brown's 
blood-and-iron  policy  in  the  home  of  his  friends.  The  decision 
of  the  Free  State  leaders  to  make  the  best  of  the  situation  and 
work  under  the  existing  Territorial  government,  instead  of 
refusing  to  have  anything  to  do  with  it,  involved,  of  course,  a 
complete  change  of  policy.  It  touched  no  responsive  chord  in 
Brown's  breast.  One  of  his  biographers  remarks  that  there 
was  no  fighting  for  him  to  do  in  1857  because  he  had  done  his 
work  so  thoroughly  in  1856.  Nothing  could  be  further  from 
the  fact.  The  progress  to  freedom  and  prosperity  of  Kansas 
was  due  to  several  causes,  but  especially  to  an  abandonment  of 
the  policy  of  carrying  on  an  unauthorized  war,  and  of  meet- 
ing assassination  with  assassination. 

There  is  only  one  allegation  that  Brown  came  in  touch  with 
the  Free  State  leaders  during  his  brief  stay  in  Kansas  in  1857. 
There  was  then  in  existence  a  Free  State  secret  society,  called 
into  being  by  fear  of  the  Lecompton  Constitutional  conven- 
tion, and  determined  to  prevent  the  success  of  the  conspiracy 
to  force  slavery  upon  Kansas  through  its  acts.  Mr.  R.  G. 
Elliott,  of  Lawrence,  states  ^°^  that  the  society  was  pledged  to 

"'unman'  the  convention  soon  after  its  adjournment,  a  term  of 
elastic  definition,  meaning  anything  from  obtaining  resignations 
of  ofificials  by  persuasion,  to  removing  them  by  capital  excision. 
Abduction  was  the  method  indicated  at  that  juncture.  .  .  .  John 
Brown  had  recently  come  from  Tabor,  Iowa,  and  was  in  the  neigh- 
borhood in  seclusion,  was  communicated  with  by  William  Hutch- 
inson and  expressed  his  readiness  to  execute  the  plans  of  the 
order  but  with  the  men  exclusively  of  his  own  selection.  To  the 
fear  expressed  by  Robinson  that  Brown  would  resort  to  bloodshed, 
Hutchinson  gave  assurance  that  Brown  pledged  his  faith  to  be 
governed  strictly  by  the  expressed  wishes  of  the  order,  and  further- 
more that  he  had  surveyed  the  situation  at  Lecompton  and  that  he 
could  seize  Calhoun  [the  head  of  the  Constitutional  convention]  and 
carry  him  to  a  place  within  one  hundred  miles  where  he  could  hold 
him  safely  for  three  months." 

But  the  scheme  was  blocked  by  Calhoun's  removing  to  St. 
Joseph. 

The  most  important  result  of  this  visit  of  Brown  to  Kansas 
was  his  recruiting  his  first  men  for  the  Harper's  Ferry  raid. 
No  sooner  had  he  reached  Mr.  Whitman's  than  he  sent  for 
John  E.  Cook,  whom  he  had  met  after  the  battle  of  Black  Jack, 


308  JOHN  BROWN 

before  the  dispersal  of  his  forces  by  Colonel  Sumner.'"^  When 
Cook  came,  Brown  informed  him  simply  that  he  was  engaged 
in  organizing  a  company  for  the  purpose  of  putting  a  stop  to 
the  aggressions  of  the  pro-slavery  forces.  Cook  agreed  to  join 
him,  and  recommended  Richard  Realf,  Luke  F.  Parsons  and 
R.  J.  Hinton.  On  Sunday,  November  8,  Cook  and  Parsons 
had  a  long  talk  with  Brown  in  the  vicinity  of  Lawrence,  and 
a  few  days  later,  Cook  received  a  note  asking  him  to  join 
Brown,  with  Parsons  if  possible,  on  Monday,  November  1 6,  at 
a  Mrs.  Sheridan's,  two  miles  south  of  Topeka.  They  were  to 
bring  their  arms,  ammunition  and  clothing.  Cook  made  all 
his  preparations  to  meet  Brown  at  the  time  appointed,  but 
had  to  go  alone.  He  stayed  with  Brown  a  day  and  a  half  at 
Mrs.  Sheridan's,  and  then  went  to  Topeka,  where  they  were 
joined  by  Aaron  D.  Stevens  (Charles  Whipple),  Charles  W. 
MofTet  and  John  H.  Kagi.  They  at  once  left  Topeka  for  Ne- 
braska City,  and  camped  at  night  on  the  prairie  northeast  of 
Topeka.  What  followed.  Cook  stated  in  his  Harper's  Ferry 
confession : 

"Here,  for  the  first,  I  learned  that  we  were  to  leave  Kansas,  to 
attend  a  military  school  during  the  winter.  It  was  the  intention 
of  the  party  to  go  to  Ashtabula  County,  Ohio.  Next  morning 
[November  i8]  I  was  sent  back  to  Lawrence  to  get  a  draft  of 
$80.  cashed  [$82.50  according  to  Brown's  memorandum-book],  and 
to  get  Parsons,  Realf  and  Hinton  to  go  back  with  me.  I  got  the 
draft  cashed.  Capt.  Brown  had  given  me  orders  to  take  boat  to 
St.  Joseph,  Mo.,  and  stage  from  there  to  Tabor,  Iowa,  where  he 
would  remain  for  a  few  days.  I  had  to  wait  for  Realf  for  three  or  four 
days ;  Hinton  could  not  leave  at  that  time.  I  started  with  Realf  and 
Parsons  on  a  stage  for  Leavenworth.  The  boats  had  stopped  run- 
ning on  account  of  the  ice.  Stayed  one  day  at  Leavenworth,  and 
then  left  for  Weston  where  we  took  stage  for  St.  Joseph,  and  from 
thence  to  Tabor.  I  found  C.  P.  Tidd  and  Leeman  at  Tabor.  Our 
party  now  consisted  of  Capt.  John  Brown,  Owen  Brown,  A.  D. 
Stephens,  Chas  Moffett,  C.  P.  Tidd,  Richard  Robertson  [Richard- 
son], Col.  Richard  Realf,  L.  F.  Parsons,  W.  M.  Leeman  and  my- 
self.* We  stopped  some  days  at  Tabor,  making  preparations  to 
start.  Here  we  found  that  Capt  Brown's  ultimate  destination  was  the 
State  of  Virginia." 

The  very  day  that  Brown  wrote  to  the  Adairs,  "  I  may  find 
it  best  to  go  back  to  Iowa,"  he  set  off  for  Tabor.  The  vacilla- 

*  Cook  overlooked  here  John  H.  Kagi,  who  was  also  present. 


NEW   FRIENDS   FOR  OLD  VISIONS         309 

tion  of  the  last  three  months  was  over.  His  whole  soul  was  now 
wrapped  up  in  his  Harper's  Ferry  plan;  Kansas  was  thence- 
forth forgotten.  Upon  her  further  struggles  for  freedom,  her 
soil  watered  by  his  children's  "tears  and  blood,"  he  turned  his 
back;  his  readiness  to  die  for  her  if  necessary  was  put  aside. 
He  would  never  have  returned  to  the  Territory,  had  not 
untoward  and  unexpected  circumstances  compelled  him  to 
resume  the  role  of  border  chieftain  in  1858.  Henceforth  his 
whole  energies  were  concentrated  on  "troubling  Israel"  in 
Virginia./' 


CHAPTER  IX 

A  CONVENTION  AND  A  POSTPONEMENT 

John  Brown's  newest  recruits,  Cook,  Realf  and  Parsons,  did 
not  take  kindly  to  the  announcement,  at  Tabor,  that  Virginia 
was  to  be  the  scene  of  their  armed  operations  against  slavery. 
Warm  words  passed  between  Cook  and  their  leader,  for  Cook, 
like  Realf  and  Parsons,  had  supposed  that  they  were  to  be 
trained  to  operate  against  Border  Ruffians  only.  •  After  a  good 
deal  of  wrangling.  Cook  stated,  they  agreed  to  continue,  as 
they  had  not  the  means  to  return  to  Kansas,  and  the  rest 
of  the  party  were  so  anxious  that  they  should  go  on  with 
them.  Like  their  associates,  these  three  men  were  adventur- 
ous spirits,  spoiled,  like  thousands  of  others,  by  the  Kansas 
troubles  for  leading  a  quiet  and  settled  life.  Anything  that 
smacked  of  excitement  irresistibly  appealed  to  them.  Most 
of  them  were  very  young ;  ^  some  had  seen  their  names  in  the 
newspapers  because  of  their  warfare  in  Kansas,  and  were  not 
averse  to  further  notoriety  and  the  chance  to  make  reputa- 
tions for  themselves.  All  of  them  were  steadfast  opponents  of 
slavery  and  ready  to  go  to  any  lengths  to  undermine  it.  But 
beyond  all  this,  in  the  dominating  spirit  of  John  Brown  himself 
must  be  found  the  true  reason  for  their  readiness  to  join  so 
desperate  a  venture  as  Brown  outlined  to  them.  There  was, 
Mr.  Parsons  testifies,  a  magnetism  about  Brown  as  difficult  for 
these  simpler  men  to  resist  as  for  the  philosophers  at  Concord.' 
He  walked  now  more  than  ever  like  an  old  man,  and  made  the 
impression  of  one  well  on  toward  threescore  and  ten,  when  not 
yet  fifty-eight  years  old,  with  hair  that  was  not  white  but  gray. 
Yet  there  was  as  little  doubt  about  his  vigor  and  strength  as 
there  was  of  the  intensity  of  his  hatred  of  slavery.  To  his  new 
followers  Brown  declared  that "  God  had  created  him  to  be  the 
deliverer  of  slaves  the  same  as  Moses  had  delivered  the  children 
of  Israel;  "*  and  they  found  nothing  in  this  statement  to  make 
them  doubt  his  sanity,  or  that  seemed  inherently  improbable. 
A  fanatic  they  recognized  him  to  be ;  but  fanatics  have  at  all 


A   CONVENTION   AND   A   POSTPONEMENT    311 

times  drawn  satellites  to  them,  even  when  the  alliance  meant 
certain  death.  And  so  Parsons,  Realf  and  Cook,  like  Leeman, 
Tidd  and  Kagi  —  the  latter  a  man  of  unusual  parts  —  were 
content  to  go  onward  across  Iowa.  During  their  brief  stay  in 
Tabor,  Brown  offered  to  take  his  men,  go  to  Nebraska  City, 
and  rescue  from  jail  a  slave  who  had  run  away  and  had  lost  his 
arm  when  captured,  if  the  Tabor  people  would  pay  the  actual 
expenses.  He  promised  to  put  the  slave  into  their  hands,  but 
they  were  afraid  of  the  consequences  and  did  not  give  him  the 


means 


5 


It  was  on  the  long  wintry  journey  to  Springdale,  Iowa,  with 
two  wagons  laden  with  the  Sharp's  rifles  and  ammunition,  that 
the  details  of  the  Virginia  venture  were  gradually  discussed. 
The  caravan  left  the  friendly  hamlet  of  Tabor  on  December 
4,  according  to  the  diary  of  Owen  Brown,  valuable  fragments 
of  which  survived  the  Harper's  Ferry  raid."  "Took  leave  of 
Tabor  folks  perhaps  for  the  last  time,"  and  "started  for  Iowa 
City,  Springdale  and  Ohio,"  are  the  entries  which  record  the 
departure.  Progress  was  slow,  for  all  of  the  men  walked  and 
the  weather  was  bitter  cold;  sometimes  it  is  recorded  that 
"  Father  used  harsh  words"  in  keeping  the  party,  and  particu- 
larly the  son,  in  hand.  They  camped  by  the  wayside,  avoiding 
towns  as  much  as  possible,  and  made  up  in  warmth  of  debate 
for  the  heat  they  lacked  otherwise.  On  December  8  the  entry 
reads : 

"  Cold,  wet  and  snowy;  hot  discussion  upon  the  Bible  and  war 
.  .  .  warm  argument  upon  the  effects  of  the  abolition  of  slavery  upon 
the  Southern  States,  Northern  States,  commerce  and  manufactures, 
also  upon  the  British  provinces  and  the  civilizedworld;  whence 
came  our  civilization  and  origin?  Talk  about  prejudices  against 
color;  question  proposed  for  debate,  —  greatest  general,  Washing- 
ton or  Napoleon." 

This  is  an  excellent  sample  of  the  wide  range  of  the  daily 
talks  through  the  five  months  these  strongly  marked  charac- 
ters were  leagued  together.  The  diary  concludes  on  this  day: 
"Very  cold  night;  prairie  wolves  howl  nobly;  bought  and  car- 
ried hay  on  our  backs  two  and  a  half  miles ;  some  of  the  men 
a  little  down  in  the  mouth  —  distance  travelled  20  miles." 
Fortunately,  these  travellers  were  inured  to  hardships.  Their 
skill  with  the  rifle  aided  in  eking  out  their  limited  commissary. 


312  JOHN  BROWN 

Sundays  they  stayed  in  camp.  Evenings  were  frequently  spent 
in  singing,  by  Brown's  request;  he  always  joined  with  a  hearty 
good-will  and  named  the  pieces  that  he  wanted  sung,  such  as 
"The  Slave  has  seen  the  Northern  Star,"  "From  Greenland's 
Icy  Mountains,"  etc.  In  this  amusement  Stevens  led;  for  he 
had  an  exquisite  voice,  with  clear,  bugle  notes.  On  Christmas 
Day  they  passed  Marengo,  a  town  about  thirty  miles  from 
Iowa  City;  and  presumably  reached  their  immediate  destina- 
tion, Springdale,  fifteen  miles  beyond  Iowa  City,  on  the  third 
day  thereafter. 

On  December  29,  according  to  John  Brown's  own  diary, 
Realf  began  to  board  with  James  Townsend,  mine  host  of  the 
tavern  at  West  Branch,  known  as  the  Traveller's  Rest.  Of  this 
Quaker  Boniface  unsupported  tradition  has  it  that  when 
Brown,  dismounting  from  a  mule  at  his  door  on  the  trip 
through  Iowa  in  October,  1856,  asked  Townsend  whether  he 
had  heard  of  John  Brown,  the  tavern-keeper,  "without  reply- 
ing, took  from  his  vest  pocket  a  piece  of  chalk  and,  removing 
Brown's  hat,  marked  it  with  a  large  X;  he  then  replaced  the 
hat  and  solemnly  decorated  the  back  of  Brown's  coat  with 
two  large  X  marks ;  lastly  he  placed  an  X  on  the  back  of  the 
mule."  All  of  which  pantomime  was  an  indication  that  Brown 
and  his  animals  were  on  the  free  list  of  the  hotel.' 

On  the  29th,  at  noon,  the  other  ten  members  of  Brown's 
party  began  to  board  with  John  H.  Painter,  a  friendly  Quaker 
at  Springdale,  with  whom  they  remained  until  January  11, 
when  they  moved  to  the  farmhouse  of  William  Maxson,  some 
distance  from  the  village,  which  still  stands,  albeit  in  a  condi- 
tion of  growing  ill-repair.^  One  dollar  and  a  half  a  week  was 
the  moderate  price  asked  for  each  man's  board,  "not  includ- 
ing Washing  nor  extra  lights."  Here  Brown  speedily  found  it 
necessary  to  abandon  his  plan  to  continue  on  to  Ashtabula  in 
his  adopted  State.  He  was  unable  to  sell  his  teams  and  wagons 
for  cash;  the  financial  panic  of  1857  was  now  in  full  swing; 
board  was  cheap  at  Springdale,  and  the  village  itself  was  as 
remote  a  place,  and  as  little  likely  to  be  thought  the  scene  of 
plottings  against  the  peace  of  a  sovereign  American  state,  as 
any  hamlet  in  the  country.  Moreover,  Mr.  Maxson  was  ready 
to  take  the  teams  and  wagons  ofif  Brown's  hands  and  pay 
for  them  by  boarding  his  men.  It  was  a  fortunate  arrange- 


A   CONVENTION  AND   A   POSTPONEMENT    313 

merit  all  around,  and  it  left  the  leader  free  to  go  eastward  and 
unfold  to  his  New  England  friends  the  precise  nature  of  the 
assault  on  Israel  upon  which  he  was  now  embarked. 

On  January  15,  1858,  before  he  left  for  the  East,  Brown  did, 
however,  go  with  some  of  his  men  into  even  greater  details  of 
his  Virginia  plan  than  on  the  winter's  trip  across  Iowa.  To 
Parsons,  for  instance,  he  here  mentioned  Harper's  Ferry  for 
the  first  time,  but  without  speaking  of  an  attack  upon  the 
arsenal.  John  Henrie  Kagi  knew  this  Virginia  district  well, 
and  Brown's  plan,  as  it  was  at  this  time,  commended  itself 
to  his  mind,  which  was  severely  analytical  and  not  given  to 
enthusiasms. 

Just  what  the  plan  for  the  raid  then  was,  appears  from 
a  long  letter  of  Hugh  Forbes,  of  May  14,  1858,  to  Dr.  S.  G. 
Howe,  detailing  his  differences  of  opinion  with  Brown  and 
demanding  that  he  and  his  men  be  disarmed.'  As  soon  as  he 
reached  Tabor,  in  August,  1857,  Forbes  says,  they  compared 
notes  as  to  the  coming  attack  on  slavery  in  Virginia  and 
brought  out  their  respective  schemes.  Brown  proposed,  with 
from  twenty-five  to  fifty  colored  and  white  men,  well  armed 
and  taking  with  them  a  quantity  of  spare  arms,  "to  beat  up 
a  slave  quarter  in  Virginia."   Forbes  objected  to  this  that: 

"No  preparatory  notice  having  been  given  to  the  slaves  (no  no- 
tice could  go  or  with  prudence  be  given  them)  the  invitation  to  rise 
might,  unless  they  were  already  in  a  state  of  agitation,  meet  with  no 
response,  or  a  feeble  one.  To  this  Brown  replied  that  he  was  sure 
of  a  response.  He  calculated  that  he  could  get  on  the  first  night 
from  200  to  500.  Half,  or  thereabouts,  of  this  first  lot  he  proposed 
to  keep  with  him,  mounting  100  or  so  of  them,  and  make  a  dash  at 
Harper's  Ferry  manufactory  destroying  what  he  could  not  carry  off. 
The  other  men  not  of  this  party  were  to  be  sub-divided  into  three, 
four  or  five  distinct  parties,  each  under  two  or  three  of  the  original 
band  and  would  beat  up  other  slave  quarters  whence  more  men 
would  be  sent  to  join  him. 

"  He  argued  that  were  he  pressed  by  the  U.  S.  troops,  which  after 
a  few  weeks  might  concentrate,  he  could  easily  maintain  himself 
in  the  Alleghenies  and  that  his  New  England  partisans  would  in 
the  meantime  call  a  Northern  Convention,  restore  tranquility  and 
overthrow  the  pro-slavery  administration.  This,  I  contended,  could 
at  most  be  a  mere  local  explosion.  A  slave  insurrection,  being  from 
the  very  nature  of  things  deficient  in  men  of  education  and  experi- 
ence would  under  such  a  system  as  B.  proposed  be  either  a  flash 
in  the  pan  or  would  leap  beyond  his  control,  or  any  control,  when  it 


314  JOHN  BROWN 

would  become  a  scene  of  mere  anarchy  and  would  assuredly  be 
suppressed.  On  the  other  hand,  B.  considered  foreign  intervention 
as  not  impossible.  As  to  the  dream  of  a  Northern  Convention,  I 
considered  it  as  a  settled  fallacy.  Brown's  New  England  friends 
would  not  have  courage  to  show  themselves,  so  long  as  the  issue 
was  doubtful,  see  my  letter  to  J.  B.  dated  23  February." 

After  weeks  of  discussion,  Brown,  Forbes  declared,  "acqui- 
esced or  feigned  to  acquiesce"  in  a  mixed  project  styled  "The 
Well-Matured  Plan,"  to  which  Forbes  assented  to  secure 
mutual  cooperation.  Forbes's  own  plan,  it  must  be  admitted, 
sounds  much  more  reasonable  and  practical  than  Brown's, 
and  deserves,  therefore,  to  be  made  a  matter  of  record,  par- 
ticularly as  it  had  without  doubt  its  influence  on  Brown.  It 
was  as  follows: 

"With  carefully  selected  white  persons  to  organize  along  the 
Northern  slave  frontier  (Virginia  and  Maryland  especially)  a  series 
of  stampedes  of  slaves,  each  one  of  which  operations  would  carry 
off  in  one  night  and  from  the  same  place  some  twenty  to  fifty  slaves; 
this  to  be  effected  once  or  twice  a  month,  and  eventually  once  or 
twice  a  week  along  the  non-contiguous  parts  of  the  line ;  if  possible 
without  conflict,  only  resorting  to  force  if  attacked.  Slave  women 
accustomed  to  field  labor,  would  be  nearly  as  useful  as  men.  Every- 
thing being  in  readiness  to  pass  on  the  fugitives,  they  could  be 
sent  with  such  speed  to  Canada  that  pursuit  would  be  hopeless.  In 
Canada  preparations  were  to  be  made  for  their  instruction  and 
employment.  Any  disaster  which  might  befall  a  stampede  would 
at  the  utmost  compromise  those  only  who  might  be  engaged  in  that 
single  one ;  therefore  we  were  not  bound  in  good  faith  to  the  Abo- 
litionists (as  we  did  not  jeopardize  them)  to  consult  more  than  those 
engaged  in  this  very  project.  Against  the  chance  of  loss  by  occa- 
sional accidents  should  be  weighed  the  advantages  of  a  series  of 
successful  'runs.'  Slave  property  would  thus  become  untenable 
near  the  frontier;  that  frontier  would  be  pushed  more  and  more 
Southward,  and  it  might  reasonably  be  expected  that  the  excite- 
ment and  irritation  would  impel  the  proslaveryites  to  commit  some 
stupid  blunders." 

As  he  stated  his  plan  to  Parsons  at  Springdale,  Brown  laid 
stress  upon  his  determination  not  to  fight  or  molest  any  one, 
except  to  help  the  escaping  slaves  to  defend  themselves  or  to 
flee  to  Canada.  This  satisfied  Parsons  for  the  moment,  but  it 
Is  to  be  noted  that  the  men  left  at  Springdale  did  not  much 
discuss  the  details  of  their  project  with  one  another.   Owen 


,     A   CONVENTION'  AND   A   POSTPONEMENT    315 

Brown's  diary  for  February  tells  that  on  the  12th  there  was 
"talk  about  our  adventures  and  plans."  In  the  main,  discus- 
sion ranged  from  theology  and  spiritualism  to  caloric  engines, 
and  covered  every  imaginable  subject  between  them.  Much 
talk  of  war  and  fighting  there  was,  and  drilling  with  wooden 
swords.  Stevens,  by  reason  of  his  service  in  the  Mexican  War, 
and  subsequently  in  the  United  States  Dragoons,  was  drill- 
master  in  default  of  Forbes.  Sometimes  they  went  into  the 
woods  to  look  for  natural  fortifications ;  again  they  discussed 
dislodging  the  enemy  on  a  hill-top  by  means  of  "zigzag 
trenches."  Forbes's  '  Manual '  was  diligently  perused.  Some- 
times the  men  quarrelled  with  one  another;  sometimes  their 
boisterousness  during  their  long  stay  irritated  their  peaceful 
Quaker  neighbors,  many  of  whom  were  but  recent  settlers  in 
that  vicinity.  Some  of  them,  Owen  Brown  records,  suspected 
Mr.  Maxson's  boarders  of  being  Mormon  spies  in  disguise, 
and  others  declared  that  they  were  "no  better  than  runa- 
ways" and  ought  to  be  driven  out  of  the  community,  —  a 
thought  suggested,  perhaps,  by  the  rapidity  with  which  they 
won  for  themselves  sweethearts  in  the  neighborhood  by 
Othello-like  tales  of  their  adventures  and  daring  in  their  Kan- 
sas wanderings.  But  some  of  these  affairs  of  the  heart  resulted 
seriously  and  unfavorably  to  two  or  three  of  the  raiders,  who 
carried  the  scars  thereof  to  their  end.  "One  of  the  diversions 
at  their  home  was  the  trial  by  jury  of  any  member  violating 
certain  proprieties  or  rules.  I  see  that  I  have  made  a  note  of 
a  trial  given  Owen  for  writing  down  in  his  pocket-book  the 
name  of  a  lady  in  the  vicinity.  [Miss  Laura  Wascott.]  Owen 
pleaded  guilty,"  *" — thus  Parsons  recalled  an  incident  of  the 
winter.  But  in  the  main  their  discipline  was  rigid ;  there  were 
black  marks  given  for  misconduct,  and  Cook  was  once  seri- 
ously and  severely  censured  "for  hugging  girls  in  Springdale 
Legislature." 

This  was  the  mock  body  with  which  they  beguiled  the  long 
winter  evenings,  drafting  laws  for  an  ideal  "State  of  Topeka ; " 
in  it  Cook,  Kagi  and  Realf  displayed  their  unusual  powers  as 
debaters.  Sometimes  this  legislature  met  at  Mr.  Maxson's, 
more  often  in  the  village  school,  a  mile  or  so  away,  and  it  fol- 
lowed the  regulation  procedure  with  its  bills  and  its  debates. 
Soon  Realf  was  in  demand  as  a  speaker  and  lecturer."   But 


3i6  JOHN  BROWN 

when  at  Springdale  he  was  not  the  poorest  of  the  band  in 
the  manoeuvres  and  gymnastics  practised  in  the  field  behind 
the  Maxson  house  for  three  hours  every  fair  day,  with  a  view 
to  developing  the  men  physically  to  the  utmost  advantage. 
Only  a  few  of  the  neighbors  suspected  or  knew  that  these  ex- 
ercises were  not  intended  to  fit  the  men  for  service  in  behalf 
of  Kansas.  Townsend  of  the  Traveller's  Rest ;  Maxson  and 
Painter,  Dr.  H.  C.  Gill  and  Moses  Varney  were  more  or  less 
in  John  Brown's  confidence  in  1858,  and  most  of  them  tried  to 
dissuade  him  from  his  project.'^  But,  as  the  Eastern  friends 
found  out,  there  was  no  possibility  of  success  along  that  line 
of  argument.  Brown  had  made  up  his  mind  to  realize  the  plan 
of  his  lifetime,  even  though  it  sorely  troubled  the  peace-lov- 
ing Quaker  friends  at  Springdale.  One  of  them.  Painter,  gave 
twenty  dollars  to  Brown,  saying:  "Friend,  I  cannot  give  thee 
money  to  buy  powder  and  lead,  but  here's  twenty  dollars 
toward  thy  expenses."  " 

In  short,  the  Springdale  settlement  as  a  whole  wished  him 
well,  despite  the  fact  that  he  was  emphatically  a  man  of 
war,  and  that  his  men,  as  Owen  Brown  at  this  time  recorded, 
believed  with  Jay  that  "he  that  is  guilty  of  such  oppression 
[as  slavery],  making  it  perpetual  upon  the  posterity  of  the 
oppressed,  might  justly  be  killed  outright."  To  them  slavery 
was  the  sum  of  all  oppression,  and  one  of  their  debates  was  an 
inquiry  into  the  reason  why  the  spirit  of  1776  was  so  lacking 
in  the  face  of  the  wrongs  of  1858.  But  this  little  group  of 
young  men,  among  whom  was  Richard  Richardson,  a  runaway 
slave  from  Lexington,  Missouri,  who  had  attached  himself  to 
Brown  at  Tabor,  found  their  stay  in  Springdale  as  care-free  as 
if  they  had  not  agreed  to  challenge  with  their  lives  the  most 
powerful  of  American  institutions.  As  has  been  set  forth  at 
length  in  Irving  B.  Richman's  charming  and  valuable  essay, 
'John  Brown  Among  the  Quakers,'  "  the  time  spent  in  Spring- 
dale  was  a  time  of  genuine  pleasure  to  Brown's  men.  They  en- 
joyed its  quiet,  as  also  the  rural  beauty  of  the  village  and  the 
gentle  society  of  the  people."  "  Brown's  men  have  all  gone; 
hardly  any  one  remains  in  Springdale  to  tell  the  tale  of  their 
stay;  the  Maxson  and  other  houses  of  '58  are  falling  into  de- 
cay; but  the  quiet  beauty  of  Springdale  remains.  It  still  con- 
sists of  one  broad  street  with  modest  frame  houses  surrounded 


THE   SCHOOL-HOUSE   AT   SPKINGDALE,    IOWA 
Where  the  Mock  Legislature  met 


^Hpr,'                      "  '"''^HbjyH 

• 

WKB^^ttKI^Kk 

jf^ 

9    y^0^V!*       ---■'  SI     -^^ 

^1 

1 

1 

HOUSE   OF   REV.  JOHN  TODD,  TABOR,  IOWA 
Where  John  Brown  stored  his  guns  and  ammunition 


A   CONVENTION  AND  A  POSTPONEMENT    317 

by  green  and  rolling  fields ;  but  the  Quaker  element  is  little 
noticeable,  and  there  are  fewer  people  residing  there  to-day 
than  fifty  years  ago. 

Thirteen  days  after  leaving  Tabor,  John  Brown  was  in  the 
Rochester  house  of  Frederick  Douglass,"  who  had  so  long 
been  the  confidant  of  his  plan  as  to  Virginia,  and  in  numer- 
ous talks  informed  him  that  the  time  was  ripe  for  the  long- 
cherished  undertaking.  On  the  way  East  he  had  stopped  in 
Lindenville,  Ohio,  ^^  to  visit  his  son  John  and  talk  over  with 
him  the  unpleasant  developments  in  regard  to  Hugh  Forbes, 
about  which  Brown  had  written  to  his  son  on  January  15,  at 
Springdale.  He  had  decided,  on  receiving  a  violent  and  abu- 
sive letter,  to  correspond  with  Forbes  through  a  third  person ; 
the  malevolent  spirit  displayed  by  that  adventurer  making  it 
necessary  for  his  safety,  if  for  no  other  reason.  Forbes  had  not 
waited  long  after  his  return  to  the  East  —  he  had  stopped  at 
Rochester  on  his  way  to  New  York  and  obtained  financial  aid 
from  Frederick  Douglass '' — to  begin,  in  December,  1857,  a 
long  series  of  abusive  letters  to  all  of  Brown's  Eastern  friends 
and  to  the  leading  anti-slavery  statesmen  in  Washington. 
Having  now  firmly  convinced  himself  that  he  had  been  out- 
rageously treated,  he  took  somewhat  of  the  blackmailer's  posi- 
tion and  demanded  money  on  pain  of  publishing  to  the  world 
the  facts  about  Brown  and  his  plans.  The  needs  of  his  family, 
whether  genuine  or  exaggerated,  became  an  obsession  with 
him;  of  Brown  he  demanded  another  six  months'  pay,  on  the 
ground  that  his  engagement  was  for  a  year.  His  begging 
was  endless  and  persistent;  had  he  devoted  but  a  tithe  of 
the  energy  he  put  into  his  letters  to  earning  a  livelihood, 
he  must  have  supported  easily  those  dependent  upon  him. 
To  most  of  those  he  addressed  he  was  utterly  unknown  or  at 
most  a  name;  he  had  not,  of  course,  any  document  to  prove 
that  he  had  been  employed  either  by  the  Massachusetts  Kan- 
sas Committee  or  the  National  Kansas  Committee.  Yet 
he  insisted  that  he  had  been, — misled,  perhaps,  into  believ- 
ing that  the  Kansas  Committees  were  similar  to  the  Euro- 
pean revolutionary  bodies  of  which  he  had  had  experience 
or  cognizance.  He  even  forced  his  way,  in  the  spring  of 
1858,  to  Senator  Henry  Wilson,  on  the  floor  of  the  Senate, 
during  a  recess  of  that  body,  and  retailed  to  him  in  great 


3i8  JOHN  BROWN 

excitement  the  story  of  his  wrongs,  renewing  to  Senator  Wil- 
son the  demand  he  had  then  for  some  time  been  making,  that 
Brown  and  his  men  be  disarmed.  ^^  To  William  H.  Seward  he 
portrayed  Brown  as  a  "very  bad  man  who  would  not  keep  his 
word;"  "a  reckless  man,  an  unreliable  man,  a  vicious  man."  " 
As  a  sample  of  his  utterances,  the  following  will  suffice  to 
show  either  that  the  man  was  unbalanced,  or  that  he  was 
deliberately  trying  to  use  Brown's  inability  to  pay  him  more 
than  six  months'  salary  as  a  club  to  get  means  —  whether 
earned  or  not  —  from  the  New  England  friends:  2" 

•  "  Capt.  B.  came  to  me  with  a  letter  from  the  Rev.  Joshua  Leavitt 
of  the  New  York  Independent.  Upon  my  making  inquiries  of  him  he 
stated  that  Capt.  B.  had  no  means  of  his  own  to  meet  any  obliga- 
tions but  that  he  believed  him  to  be  backed  by  good  and  responsible 
men,  and  that  at  any  rate  I  might  repose  faith  in  his  word.  Brown 
on  his  part  trusted  to  the  New  England  promises  made  to  him, 
which  promises  being  subsequently  broken  (because  it  was  imagined 
that  the  border  ruffians  had  abandoned  Kansas)  he  of  course  could 
not  fulfill  his  compact  with  me,  and  when  I  remonstrated,  the  hu- 
manitarians replied  '  We  do  not  know  you  —  We  made  no  engage- 
ment with  you ; '  while  Brown  said  '  Be  quiet  do  not  weaken  my 
hand ; '  and  when  I  refused  to  be  quiet,  since  my  children  were  being 
killed  by  slow  torture  through  the  culpability  of  the  humanitarians, 
then  B.  denies  his  obligation  to  me  rather  than  displease  the  men 
of  money.  The  humanitarians  and  Brown  are  guilty  of  perfidy  and 
barbarity,  to  which  may  be  added  stupidity.  .  .  .  You  do  not  take 
into  consideration  that  you  are  perpetrating  an  atrocious  wrong, 
while  I  am  struggling  to  save  my  family.  I  am  the  natural  protector 
of  my  children,  nothing  but  death  shall  prevent  my  defending  them 
against  the  barbarity  of  the  New  England  speculators." 

He  was  by  this  time  charging  that  the  whole  Virginia  pro- 
posal was  a  scheme  of  A.  A.  Lawrence  and  others  interested  in 
New  England  mills,  to  make  money  by  temporarily  causing 
an  increase  in  the  price  of  cotton  through  the  panic  bound  to 
follow  Brown's  attack. 

On  February  9,  Brown  wrote  to  his  son  John,  directing  him 
to  reply  to  a  letter  from  Forbes  in  the  following  disingenuous 
terms:" 

_  "Your  letter  to  my  father,  of  27th  January,  after  mature  reflec- 
tion, I  have  decided  to  return  to  you,  as  I  am  unwilling  he  should, 
with  all  his  other  cares,  difficulties  and  trials,  be  vexed  with  what 
I  am  apprehensive  he  will  accept  as  highly  offensive  and  insulting, 


A  CONVENTION   AND   A   POSTPONEMENT    319 

while  I  know  that  he  is  disposed  to  do  all  he  consistently  can  for 
you,  and  will  do  so  unless  you  are  yourself  the  cause  of  his  disgust. 
I  was  trying  to  send  you  a  little  assistance  myself,  —  say  about 
forty  dollars ;  but  I  must  hold  up  till  I  feel  different  from  what  I  do 
now.  I  understood  from  my  father  that  he  had  advanced  you  already 
six  hundred  dollars,  or  six  months'  pay  (disappointed  as  he  has  been) 
to  enable  you  to  provide  for  your  family ;  and  that  he  was  to  give 
you  one  hundred  dollars  per  month  for  just  as  much  time  as  you 
continued  in  his  service.  Now,  you  in  your  letter  undertake  to  in- 
struct him  to  say  that  he  had  positively  engaged  you  for  one  year. 
I  fear  he  will  not  accept  it  well  to  be  asked  or  told  to  state  what  he 
considers  an  untruth.  Again,  I  suspect  you  have  greatly  mistaken 
the  man,  if  you  suppose  he  will  take  it  kindly  in  you,  or  any  living 
man,  to  assume  to  instruct  him  how  he  should  conduct  his  own  busi- 
ness and  correspondence.  And  I  suspect  that  the  seemingly  spiteful 
letters  you  say  you  have  written  to  some  of  his  particular  friends 
have  not  only  done  you  great  injury,  but  also  weakened  his  hands 
with  them.  While  I  have,  in  my  poverty,  deeply  sympathized  with 
you  and  your  family,  who,  I  ask,  is  likely  to  be  moved  by  any  ex- 
hibition of  a  wicked  and  spiteful  temper  on  your  part,  or  is  likely  to 
be  dictated  to  by  you  as  to  their  duties?" 

To  this  son.  Brown  explained  that  he  wished  to  see  how  a 
sharp  and  well-merited  rebuke  would  affect  Forbes;  if  it  had 
the  desired  effect,  they  would  send  forty  dollars.  "I  am  anx- 
ious," Brown  added,  "to  understand  him  fully  before  we  go 
any  further.  ..." 

While  the  Forbes  matter  was  doubtless  much  on  his  mind 
during  his  stay  of  three  weeks  with  Frederick  Douglass,  his 
chief  concern  was  to  bring  about  a  meeting  of  his  warmest 
and  most  generous  supporters  at  Gerrit  Smith's,  in  Peterboro, 
in  the  latter  half  of  February.  He  declined  a  call  from  Mr. 
Stearns  and  Mr.  Sanborn  to  visit  Boston  because :  "  , 

"It  would  be  almost  impossible  for  me  to  pass  through  Albany, 
Springfield,  or  any  of  those  points,  on  my  way  to  Boston;  &  not 
have  it  known ;  &  my  reasons  for  keeping  quiet  were  such  that  when 
I  left  Kansas;  I  kept  it  from  every  friend  there;  &  I  suppose  it  is  still 
understood  that  I  am  hiding  somewhere  in  the  territory ;  &  such  will 
be  the  idea;  untill  it  comes  to  be  generally  known  that  I  am  in  these 
parts.  I  want  to  continue  that  impression  as  long  as  I  can ;  or  for 
the  present.  .  .  .  My  reasons  for  keeping  still  are  sufficient  to  keep 
me  from  seeing  my  Wife;  £f  Children:  much  as  I  long  to  do  so."        , 

To  them  Brown  had  written  at  length,  on  January  30,23  of 
his  relief  of  mind  at  being  again  so  near  them,  of  his  hope  of 


320  JOHN  BROWN 

devising  a  way  of  meeting  some  one  of  the  deserted  North 
Elba  homestead : 

"The  anxiety  I  feel  to  see  my  Wife;  &  Children  once  more;  I 
am  unable  to  describe.  .  .  .  The  cries  of  my  poor  sorrowstricken  de- 
spairing Children  whoose  '  tears  on  their  cheeks '  are  ever  in  my  Eye; 
&  whose  sighs  are  ever  in  my  Ears ;  may  however  prevent  my  enjoy- 
ing the  happiness  I  so  much  desire.  But  courage,  courage,  Courage 
the  great  work  of  my  life  (the  unseen  Hand  that  'girded  me;  &  who 
has  indeed  holden  my  right  hand  may  hold  it  still ;)  though  I  have  not 
known  Him;'  at  all  as  I  ought:)  I  may  yet  see  accomplished;  {God 
helping;)  &  be  permitted  to  return,  &"  rest  at  Evening." 

To  Thomas  Wentworth  Higginson  he  thus  appealed : " 

"  I  now  want  to  get  for  the  perfecting  of  by  far  the  most  impor- 
tant undertaking  of  my  whole  life ;  from  $500,  to  $800,  within  the 
next  Sixty  days.  I  have  written  Rev  Theodore  Parker,  George  L. 
Stearns,  and  F.  B.  Sanborn  Esqur,  on  the  subject;  but  do  not  know 
as  either  Mr  Stearns,  or  Mr  Sanborn,  are  abolitionists  I  suppose 
they  are.  Can  you  be  induced  to  opperate  at  Worcester,  &  elsewhere 
during  that  time  to  raise  from  .4w/i-slavery  men  &  women  (or  any 
other  parties)  some  part  of  that  amount?  .  .  .  Hope  this  is  my  last 
effort  in  the  begging  line." 

Higginson  could  not  go  to  Peterboro,  neither  could  Mr. 
Stearns;  moreover,  Brown's  letters  failed  to  interest  them 
because  of  their  indefiniteness.  To  Mr.  Sanborn  the  invitation 
was  particularly  attractive  because  of  the  presence  at  Gerrit 
Smith's  of  a  classmate,  Edwin  Morton,  then  a  tutor  in  Mr. 
Smith's  family.  "Our  old  and  noble  friend,  Captain  John 
Brown  of  Kansas  arrives  this  evening,"  is  the  entry  in  Gerrit 
Smith's  diary  on  February  18,  1858,2s  and  his  welcome  was  in 
keeping  with  these  words.  For  Brown  this  worthy  philanthro- 
pist conceived  a  genuine  affection,  which  appears  in  the  later 
letters  to  the  raider,  and  not  even  in  the  Stearns  or  Russell 
homes  was  he  a  more  welcome  guest.  On  this,  the  most  impor- 
tant of  all  visits,  he  lost  no  time  in  unfolding  his  plans  to  his 
generous  patron,  and  on  the  24th  he  was  able  to  write  to  his 
family: 26  "Mr.  Smith  &  family  go  all  lengths  with  me," — 
a  significant  phrase  in  view  of  Mr.  Smith's  subsequent  efforts 
to  make  it  appear  that  he  was  not  really  cognizant  of  the 
lengths  to  which  Brown's  plan  was  to  carry  them.  The  final 
and  most  important  exchange  of  views  was  held  when  Mr. 


A   CONVENTION  AND   A   POSTPONEMENT    321 

Sanborn  arrived,  on  Washington's  Birthday.  What  took  place 
then  has  been  set  forth  in  detail  by  Mr.  Sanborn  at  various 
times."  In  an  upper  room  of  the  Smith  mansion,  Brown  "  un- 
folded his  plans ' '  for  a  campaign  somewhere  in  slave  territory 
east  of  the  AUeghanies,  and  read  to  them,  so  Mr.  Sanborn 
records, 

"the  singular  constitution  drawn  up  by  him  [in  the  Frederick 
Douglass  house  in  Rochester]  for  the  government  of  the  territory, 
small  or  large,  which  he  might  rescue  by  force  from  slavery,  and  for 
the  control  of  his  own  little  band.  It  was  an  amazing  proposition 
—  desperate  in  its  character,  wholly  inadequate  in  its  provision 
of  means,  and  of  most  uncertain  result.  Such  as  it  was,  Brown 
had  set  his  heart  on  it  as  the  shortest  way  to  restore  our  slave- 
cursed  republic  to  the  principles  of  the  Declaration  of  Independ>- 
ence;  and  he  was  ready  to  die  in  its  execution  —  as  he  did." 

Amazing  proposition  that  it  was,  Brown's  auditors  gave 
him  respectful  attention  until  after  midnight,  "proposing 
objections  and  raising  difficulties;  but  nothing  could  shake  the 
purpose  of  the  old  Puritan."  He  was  able  in  some  fashion  to 
meet  every  criticism  of  his  plans,  to  suggest  a  plausible  way 
out  of  every  difficulty,  while  to  the  chief  objection,  the  slender 
means  for  undertaking  a  war  upon  the  dominating  American 
institution,  he  opposed  merely  a  Scriptural  text:  "If  God  be 
for  us,  who  can  be  against  us?"  He  wanted  to  open  his  cam- 
paign in  the  spring;  all  he  needed  was  five  hundred  or  eight 
hundred  dollars,  for  he  now  had  the  arms  and  sufficient  men. 
"No  argument  could  prevail  against  his  fixed  purpose."  The 
discussion  went  over  until  the  next  day ;  and  despite  the  fool- 
hardiness  of  the  venture,  despite  the  strange  Constitution, 
which  to  many  minds  remains  the  strongest  indictment  of 
Brown's  sanity,  his  will  prevailed.  He  did  not  at  this  time, 
Mr.  Sanborn  testifies,  speak  specifically  of  starting  at  Har- 
per's Ferry  or  taking  the  arsenal ;  the  point  of  departure  was 
left  vague,  but  the  general  outlines  were  about  as  he  had 
described  them  to  Forbes.  Back  of  it  all,  in  his  head,  was  the 
purpose  of  setting  the  South  afire  and  precipitating  a  conflict. 
Finally,  says  Mr.  Sanborn :  ^^ 

"We  saw  we  must  either  stand  by  him  or  leave  him  to  dash  himself 
alone  against  the  fortress  he  was  determined  to  assault.  To  with- 


322  JOHN  BROWN 

hold  aid  would  only  delay,  not  prevent  him.  As  the  sun  was  setting 
over  the  snowy  hills  of  the  region  where  we  met,  I  walked  for  an 
hour  with  Gerrit  Smith  among  woods  and  fields  (then  included  in 
his  broad  manor)  which  his  father  purchased  of  the  Indians  and 
bequeathed  to  him.  Brown  was  left  at  home  by  the  fire,  discussing 
points  of  theology  with  Charles  Stewart  [Stuart].  Mr.  Smith  re- 
stated in  his  eloquent  way  the  daring  propositions  of  Brown,  whose 
import  he  understood  fully,  and  then  said  in  substance:  'You  see 
how  it  is ;  our  dear  old  friend  has  made  up  his  mind  to  this  course, 
and  cannot  be  turned  from  it.  We  cannot  give  him  up  to  die  alone; 
we  must  support  him.  I  will  raise  so  many  hundred  dollars  for  him; 
you  must  lay  the  case  before  your  friends  in  Massachusetts,  and 
ask  them  to  do  as  much.  I  see  no  other  way.'  I  had  come  to  the 
same  conclusion,  and  by  the  same  process  of  reasoning.  It  was  done 
far  more  from  our  regard  for  the  man  than  from  hopes  of  immediate 
success." 

Well  might  Brown  rejoice.  With  Mr.  Smith's  wealth  and 
influence  behind  him,  it  could  now  be  only  a  short  while  before 
he  would  have  in  hand  the  small  sum  he  asked,  and  be  actually 
in  battle  with  the  forces  of  slavery. 

Mr.  Sanborn  left  on  February  24  for  Boston,  ready  to  work 
for  the  plan  there  and  summon  a  gathering  of  a  trusted  few 
who  could  be  counted  on  to  put  their  shoulders  to  the  wheel. 
He  had  scarcely  left  when  Brown,  in  his  exaltation  and  exulta- 
tion of  spirit,  sent  him  these  characteristic  lines :  2* 

My  Dear  Friend 

Mr  Morton  has  taken  the  liberty  of  saying  to  me  that  you  felt 
}/2  inclined  to  make  a  common  cause  with  me.  I  greatly  rejoice  at 
this;  for  I  believe  when  you  come  to  look  at  the  ample  field  I  labour 
in :  &  the  rich  harvest  which  (not  only  this  entire  country,  but)  the 
whole  world  during  the  present  &  future  generations  may  reap  from 
its  successful  cultivation :  you  will  feel  that  you  are  out  of  your  ele- 
ment until  you  find  you  are  in  it ;  an  entire  Unit.  What  an  incon- 
ceivable amount  of  good  you  might  so  effect;  by  your  counsel,  your 
example,  your  encouragement,  your  natural,  &  acquired  ability;  for 
active  service.  And  then  how  very  little  we  can  possibly  loose?  Cer- 
tainly the  cause  is  enough  to  live  for;  if  not  to *  for.  I  have  only 

had  this  one  opportunity  in  a  life  of  nearly  Sixty  years,  &  could  I  be 
continued  Ten  times  as  long  again,  I  might  not  again  have  another 
equal  opportunity.  God  has  honored  but  comparatively  a  very 
small  part  of  mankind  with  any  possible  chance  for  such  mighty  & 
soul  satisfying  rewards.  But  my  dear  friend  if  you  should  make  up 
your  mind  to  do  so  I  trust  it  will  be  wholly  from  the  promptings  of 

*  Word  omitted. 


A  CONVENTION  AND  A   POSTPONEMENT    323 

your  own  spirit;  after  having  thoroughly  counted  the  cost.  I  would 
flatter  no  man  into  such  a  measure  if  I  could  do  it  ever  so  easily.  / 
expect  nothing  but  to  "endure  hardness" :  but  I  expect  to  effect  a 
mighty  conquest  even  though  it  be  like  the  last  victory  of  Samson. 
I  felt  for  a  number  of  years  in  earlier  life:  a  steady,  strong,  desire ; 
to  die:  but  since  I  saw  any  prospect  of  becoming  a  "  reaper"  in  the 
great  harvest  I  have  not  only  felt  quite  willing  to  live:  but  have 
enjoyed  life  much;  &  am  now  rather  anxious  to  live  for  a  few  years 
more. 

On  the  same  day,  Brown  left  Peterboro  for  the  home  of 
Dr.  and  Mrs.  J.  N.  Gloucester,  a  well-to-do  colored  couple 
of  Brooklyn,  who  by  wise  investments  and  steady  industry 
had  accumulated  a  fortune.'"  To  them  he  revealed  his  plan, 
with  full  confidence  in  their  ability  to  keep  a  secret,  just  as  he 
got  into  frank  communication  with  J.  W.  Loguen,  a  negro  of 
Syracuse.  These  and  other  colored  people  assisted  him  with 
counsel  and  funds,  came  to  believe  whole-heartedly  in  the 
success  of  his  project,  and  remained  faithful  to  the  end.  On 
the  nth  of  March,  Brown  was  in  Philadelphia,  where  he  met 
on  the  15th,  at  the  residence  of  the  Rev.  Stephen  Smith  in 
Lombard  Street,  a  little  group  of  colored  men,  among  them 
Frederick  Douglass,  the  Rev.  Henry  H.  Garnett  and  William 
Still."  To  them,  too,  with  surprising  but  justified  faith  in  the 
ability  of  numbers  to  keep  so  important  a  conspiracy  to  them- 
selves, Brown  stated  his  project  and  appealed  for  men  and 
money,  and  John  Brown,  Jr.,  seconded  him,  for  he  had  met  his 
father  in  Philadelphia  to  discuss  his  own  part  in  the  great 
undertaking.  His  father  wished  him  to  take  a  trip  to  "Bed- 
ford, Chambersburg,  Gettysburg,  and  Union  town,  in  Pennsyl- 
vania, travelling  slowly  along,  and  inquiring  of  every  one  on 
the  way  or  every  family  of  the  right  stripe."  He  also  urged 
his  son  to  go  "even  to  Harper's  Ferry."  ^^  William  Still,  long 
an  active  Underground  Railroad  worker  in  Philadelphia,  was 
especially  valuable  in  this  time,  because  of  his  knowledge  of 
the  Pennsylvania  routes  and  stations. 

All  through  this  period  Brown  was  endeavoring  to  enlist  new 
recruits.  He  counted  on  Frederick  Douglass,  and  the  survivors 
of  his  family  still  feel  that  the  great  colored  orator  failed,  when 
the  real  test  came,  to  live  up  to  his  obligations.  ^^  A  particu- 
lar disappointment  at  this  period  in  1858  was  his  inability  to 
reenlist  his  son-in-law,  Henry  Thompson,  whose  services  and 


324  JOHN  BROWN 

bravery  in  Kansas  had  so  commended  themselves  to  him.  Of 
his  daughter  Ruth  he  asked  whether  any  plan  could 

"be  devised  whereby  you  could  let  Henry  go  'to  school'  (as  you 
expressed  it  in  your  letter  to  him  while  in  Kansas :)  I  would  rather 
NOW  have  him  '  for  another  term ' :  than  to  have  a  Hundred  average 
schollars.  I  have  a  particular  &  very  important  ;  {but  not  danger- 
ous) place  for  him  to  fill;  in  the  '  school ' ;  &  I  know  of  no  man  living; 
so  well  adapted  to  fill  it.  I  am  quite  confident  some  way  can  be 
devised ;  so  that  you;  &  your  children  could  be  imth  him ;  &  be  quite 
happy  even:  &  safe  but  '  God  forbid'  me  to  flatter  you  into  trouble. 
I  did  not  do  it  before."  ^* 

The  daughter  replied  in  doubt,  asking  what  the  post  of 
his  duty  was  to  be,  and  saying  that  her  husband  felt  that  too 
high  an  estimate  had  been  placed  on  his  "qualifications  as 
a  scholar."  Ruth's  desire  to  preserve  her  husband's  life  con- 
quered in  the  end  her  wish  to  be  of  service  to  her  father  and 
the  great  cause  of  the  Brown  family.'*  To  this  Mr.  Thompson 
probably  owes  the  fact  that  he  is  still,  at  this  writing,  in  the 
land  of  the  living. 

Before  his  Philadelphia  conference.  Brown  had  made  a 
hasty  trip  to  Boston,  where  he  met  Higginson,  Parker,  Howe, 
Sanborn  and  Stearns,  at  the  American  House  during  his  four 
days'  stay  from  March  5  to  8.  To  Mr.  Parker  he  wrote,  on 
March  7,  asking  his  aid  in  "composing  a  substitute  for  an 
address  you  saw  last  season,  directed  to  the  officers  and  sol- 
diers of  the  United  States  Army."  He  had  never  been  able  to 
clothe  his  ideas  in  language  to  satisfy  himself,  but  he  tried  to 
tell  the  great  pulpit  orator  what  he  wanted,  in  these  words :  '^ 

"In  the  first  place,  it  must  be  short,  or  it  will  not  be  generally 
read.  It  must  be  in  the  simplest  or  plainest  language;  without  the 
least  affectation  of  the  scholar  about  it,  and  yet  be  worded  with 
great  clearness  and  power.  The  anonymous  writer  must  (in  the 
language  of  the  Paddy)  be  'after  others,'  and  not  'after  himself, 
at  all,  at  all.'  If  the  spirit  that  'communicated'  Franklin's  Poor 
Richard  (or  some  other  good  spirit)  would  dictate,  I  think  it  would 
be  quite  as  well  employed  as  the  'dear  sister  spirits'  have  been 
for  some  years  past.  The  address  "^should  be  appropriate,  and  par- 
ticularly adapted  to  the  peculiar  circumstances  we  anticipate, 
and  should  look  to  the  actual  change  of  service  from  that  of  Satan 
to  the  service  of  God.  It  should  be,  in  short,  a  most  earnest  and 
powerful  appeal  to  man's  sense  of  right,  and  to  their  feeUngs  of 
humanity." 


A  CONVENTION   AND   A   POSTPONEMENT    325 
Brown  also  asked  for  a  similar  short  address, 

"appropriate  to  the  peculiar  circumstances,  intended  for  all  per- 
sons, old  and  young,  male  and  female,  slaveholding  and  non-slave- 
holding,  to  be  sent  out  broadcast  over  the  entire  nation.  So  by 
every  male  and  female  prisoner  on  being  set  at  liberty,  and  to  be 
read  by  them  during  confinement." 

Particularly  striking  is  this  passage,  since  it  foreshadows 
exactly  his  treatment  of  his  prisoners  at  Harper's  Ferry : 

"The  impressions  made  on  prisoners  by  kindness  and  plain  deal- 
ing, instead  of  barbarous  and  cruel  treatment,  such  as  they  might 
give,  and  instead  of  being  slaughtered  like  vile  reptiles,  as  they  might 
very  naturally  expect,  are  not  only  powerful,  but  lasting.  Females 
are  susceptible  of  being  carried  away  entirely  by  the  kindness  of  an 
intrepid  and  magnanimous  soldier,  even  when  his  bare  name  was 
but  a  terror  the  day  previous." 

By  this  appeal  Mr.  Parker  was  not  moved,  his  only  reply 
being  to  send  to  Brown  Captain  George  B.  McClellan's 
recently  issued  report  on  the  armies  of  Europe.''  That  Brown 
was  much  concerned  with  the  reading  of  his  followers  ap- 
pears from  his  asking  Mr.  Sanborn,  in  February,  for  copies  of 
Plutarch's  'Lives,'  Irving's  'Life  of  Washington,'  the  best 
written  '  Life  of  Napoleon '  and  other  similar  books,  for  use  at 
Springdale.'* 

Some  idea  of  the  method  of  raising  the  funds  for  Brown 
appears  from  Mr.  Sanborn's  letters  of  this  period  to  Mr. 
Higginson.   On  March  8  he  reported : '' 

"Hawkins*  has  gone  to  Philadelphia  today,  leaving  his  friends 
to  work  for  him.  $1000  is  the  sum  set  to  be  raised  here  —  of  which 
yourself,  Mr.  Parker,  Dr.  Howe,  Mr.  Stearns  and  myself  each  are 
assessed  to  raise  $100  —  Some  may  do  more  —  perhaps  you  cannot 
come  up  to  that  —  nor  I,  possibly  —  But  of  $500  we  are  sure  — 
and  the  $1000  in  all  probability.  .  .  .  Hawkins  goes  to  prepare 
agencies  for  his  business  near  where  he  will  begin  operations.  Dr. 
Cabot  knows  something  of  the  speculation,  but  not  the  whole,  not 
being  quite  prepared  to  take  stock.  No  others  have  been  admitted 
to  a  share  in  the  business,  though  G.  R.  Russell  has  been  consulted." 

A  meeting  was  called  for  March  20,  at  Dr.  Howe's  rooms, 
to  discuss  raising  funds,  in  Mr.  Stearns's  name.  The  next  day 
Mr.  Sanborn  stated  that : 

*  Brown. 


326  JOHN  BROWN 

"  Mr.  Stearns  is  Treasurer  of  the  enterprise  for  N.  E.  —  and  has 

now  on  hand  $150  having  paid  H $100.  .  .  .  Mr.  Stearns  has 

given  $100  &  promises  $200  more,  but  holds  it  back  for  a  future 
emergency.  Mr.  Parker  has  raised  his  $100  &  will  do  something 
more.  Dr.  H.  has  paid  in  $50  and  will  raise  $100  more.  ...  I  paid 
Brown  $25  —  my  own  subscription  —  but  have  as  yet  been  able 
to  get  nothing  else  —  though  I  shall  do  so."  ^° 

By  April  i  there  were  three  hundred  and  seventy-five  dol- 
lars in  hand,  but  three  weeks  later,  Brown  had  received  only 
four  hundred  and  ten  dollars  and  was  calling  urgently  for 
the  remainder  of  the  one  thousand  dollars  promised.  In  all 
he  received  at  this  time  only  about  six  hundred  dollars, 
together  with  other  sums  raised  in  New  York  and  Philadelphia 
—  a  pittance,  indeed,  with  which  to  begin  his  crusade.  Mr. 
Higginson  early  did  his  share.  His  interview  with  Brown  in 
March  had  made  so  deep  an  impression  upon  him  that  he  was 
thereafter  ready  to  do  and  dare  with  Brown  with  unflinching 
courage.  As  it  is  often  said  that  Brown's  chief  success  lay 
in  influencing  weaker  minds,  it  is  worth  noting  the  impres- 
sion a  single  talk  with  him  made  upon  this  able  and  virile 
Worcester  clergyman: 

"  I  met  him  in  his  room  at  the  American  House  [No.  126]  in  March, 
1858.  I  saw  before  me  a  man  whose  mere  appearance  and  bearing 
refuted  in  advance  some  of  the  strange  perversions  which  have 
found  their  way  into  many  books,  and  which  often  wholly  missed 
the  type  to  which  he  belonged.  In  his  thin,  worn,  resolute  face  there 
were  the  signs  of  a  fire  which  might  wear  him  out,  and  practically 
did  so,  but  nothing  of  pettiness  or  baseness ;  and  his  talk  was  calm, 
persuasive,  and  coherent.  He  was  simply  a  high-minded,  unselfish, 
belated  Covenanter;  a  man  whom  Sir  Walter  Scott  might  have 
drawn,  but  whom  such  writers  as  Nicolay  and  Hay,  for  instance, 
have  utterly  failed  to  delineate.  To  describe  him  in  their  words  as 
'clean  but  coarse'  is  curiously  wide  of  the  mark;  he  had  no  more 
of  coarseness  than  was  to  be  found  in  Habakkuk  Mucklewrath  or 
in  George  Eliot's  Adam  Bede ;  he  had,  on  the  contrary,  that  religious 
elevation  which  is  itself  a  kind  of  refinement;  the  quality  one  may 
see  expressed  in  many  a  venerable  Quaker  face  at  yearly  meeting. 
Coarseness  absolutely  repelled  him;  he  was  so  strict  as  to  the  de- 
meanor of  his  men  that  his  band  was  always  kept  small,  while  that 
of  Lane  was  large ;  he  had  little  humor,  and  none  of  the  humorist's 
temptation  toward  questionable  conversation."  " 

On  one  of  his  Boston  visits,  Brown  also  met  the  Rev.  James 
Freeman  Clarke  at  Senator  Sumner's  residence,  according 


A   CONVENTION   AND   A  POSTPONEMENT    327 

to  Mr.  Clarke, ■'2  where  Brown  begged  to  see  the  coat  worn 
by  the  Senator  when  he  was  attacked,  and  "looked  at  it  as  a 
devotee  would  contemplate  the  relic  of  a  saint."  This  was  his 
only  recorded  meeting  with  the  victim  of  Preston  Brooks's  as- 
sault, the  news  of  which  had  so  stirred  Brown  and  his  men 
prior  to  the  Pottawatomie  murders. 

From  Philadelphia,  John  Brown  and  John,  Jr.,  made  a  brief 
visit  to  New  Haven  and  New  York;  at  the  latter  place  the 
well-known  Gibbons  and  Hopper  families,  prominent  among 
the  anti-slavery  Quakers,  were  now  assisting  him.  Thence 
they  went  direct  to  North  Elba,  on  what  was  to  have  been  a 
farewell  visit  prior  to  the  risking  of  their  lives,  arriving  on 
March  23.'''  By  April  2  they  were  at  Gerrit  Smith's,  again 
under  way,  and  found  Mr.  Smith  as  encouraging  as  usual. 
After  a  day  spent  in  discussing  the  Virginia  plan,  they  left  for 
Rochester,  where  they  separated  on  April  5,  Brown  heading 
for  St.  Catherine's,  Canada,  where  he  arrived  on  the  7th  in 
company  with  his  colored  helper,  J.  W.  Loguen."  Here  he 
met  by  appointment  a  remarkable  negro  woman,  Harriet 
Tubman,  known  as  the  "  Moses  of  her  People,"  whom  he  now 
relied  upon  to  work  for  him  among  the  escaped  slaves  then 
living  in  large  numbers  in  Canada  West,  as  he  later  hoped 
that  she  would  be  a  chief  guide  to  the  North  of  the  slaves  he 
wished  to  free  in  the  neighborhood  of  Harper's  Ferry.  Of 
her  Brown  wrote  that  she  was  "  the  most  of  a  man,  naturally, 
that  I  ever  met  with."  Well  might  she  win  his  admiration, 
for  her  exploits  in  leading  runaway  slaves  to  freedom,  at  the 
risk  of  her  own  life,  form  one  of  the  most  moving  and  thrilling 
stories  of  the  entire  struggle  against  slavery. 

At  this  time  there  were  some  thirty  to  forty  thousand 
colored  people  in  Upper  Canada,  and  about  twelve  hundred  in 
Toronto,  some  of  them  free-born  and  in  good  circumstances; 
a  great  majority,  "freight"  of  the  Underground  Railroad." 
At  Buxton,  near  the  shore  of  Lake  Erie,  was  the  "  Elgin  Asso- 
ciation," a  model  colony  for  escaped  slaves;  and  not  far  from 
this  was  Chatham,  chief  town  of  the  County  of  Kent,  also  a 
favorite  place  for  the  colored  men  who  had  found  under  the 
British  flag  the  personal  liberty  denied  them  under  the  stars 
and  stripes.  Here  were  some  well-to-do  colored  farmers  and 
mechanics,  who  had  established  a  good  school,  Wilberforce 


328  JOHN   BROWN 

Institute,  for  the  education  of  their  children,  several  churches 
and  a  newspaper  of  their  own."  Brown  soon  made  up  his  mind 
that  this  would  be  the  best  place  for  the  convention  of  his  fol- 
lowers upon  which  he  had  now  set  his  heart.  He  was  not  will- 
ing to  commence  his  raid  upon  slavery  without  some  formal- 
ity. Just  as  he  had  drawn  up  regular  by-laws  for  his  Kansas 
company  to  sign,  so  he  now  wished  to  inaugurate  his  move- 
ment only  with  a  certain  ceremonial.  It  would  have  been 
cheaper  and  easier  to  have  gone  direct  to  the  scene  of  action 
in  Virginia,  but  his  mind  was  set  on  his  convention,  upon 
which  he  also  counted  to  draw  to  his  enterprise  some,  if  not 
many,  of  the  escaped  slaves  in  Canada  West. 

His  visit  to  St.  Catherine's  with  J.  W.  Loguen  was,  there- 
fore, in  the  nature  of  a  reconnoissance.  It  lasted  a  trifle  less 
than  three  weeks,  and  included  a  trip  to  Ingersoll,  Chatham, 
and  probably  to  other  near-by  points.  Neither  the  letters  now 
available  nor  Brown's  memorandum-book  of  1858  have  re- 
corded any  details  of  his  movements.  But  his  pen  was  ever 
busy,  and  the  recruits  for  his  convention  were  gradually 
enlisted,  among  them  a  colored  physician.  Dr.  Martin  R. 
Delany,  who  subsequently  served  in  the  colored  volunteers, 
with  the  rank  of  major,  during  the  Civil  War.  To  see  this  able 
man,  Brown  went  three  times  to  Chatham  "  before  finding 
him,  refusing  on  the  first  two  occasions  to  leave  his  name  or 
address.  To  him  Brown  stated  that  it  was  men  he  wanted,  not 
money,  and  Dr.  Delany  promised  to  be  on  hand  at  the  Chat- 
ham convention  and  to  bring  others  as  well.  Finally,  Brown 
was  ready  to  lead  to  Canada  the  "  flock  of  sheep  "  he  had  win- 
tered at  Springdale,  to  which  place  he  journeyed  by  way  of 
Chicago.  He  arrived  at  Mr.  Maxson's  home  the  25th  of  April, 
and  two  days  later  was  ready  to  start,  as  he  wrote  on  that  day 
to  his  family. 

He  found  the  band  of  conspirators  reinforced  by  George  B. 
Gill,  a  native  of  Iowa,  and  Stewart  Taylor,  a  young  Canadian, 
who  responded  to  his  name  at  the  final  roll-call  in  Harper's 
Ferry  and  there  lost  his  life.  Gill,  a  man  of  education  and  some 
literary  ability,  had  known  Brown  in  previous  enterprises,  had 
been  in  Kansas  and  introduced  Taylor  to  John  Brown.  Two 
other  notable  accessions  were  the  brothers  Coppoc,  Barclay 
and  Edwin,  who  also  participated  in  the  final  raid,  much  to 


A   CONVENTION   AND   A   POSTPONEMENT    329 

the  grief  of  their  Quaker  mother,  whose  quaint  and  fast- 
decaying  house  may  still  be  seen  in  Springdale.  A  woman  of 
marked  intelligence,  a  strong  Abolitionist,  she  had  herself  in- 
stilled into  the  minds  of  her  sons  that  hatred  of  slavery  which 
had  led  Barclay  to  Kansas  in  1857,  to  aid  in  making  it  a  free 
State,  and  resulted  in  Edwin's  giving  up  his  life  on  the  scaffold 
with  that  pure  faith  and  calm  resignation  naturally  associated 
with  the  Quaker  training.  ^^  The  Coppocs  were  not  ready  to  go 
to  Chatham,  and  so  did  not  figure  in  the  convention,  as  did  the 
men  who  had  boarded  at  Mr.  Maxson's.  These  John  Brown 
found  still  harmonious,  despite  some  occasional  friction,  to 
be  expected,  perhaps,  among  vigorous  men  of  strong,  restless 
character,  cooped  up  in  one  small  farmhouse.  Leeman  had 
given  Owen  Brown  the  greatest  concern  of  all,"  and  Tidd  had 
laid  himself  open  to  a  grave  charge  by  the  father  of  a  Quaker 
maiden  resident  not  far  away.^"  But  aside  from  this,  there 
seems  to  have  been  genuine  regret  at  the  leaving  of  this  body 
of  vigorous  young  men  who  had  done  so  much  to  enliven  and 
entertain  the  neighborhood ;  several  of  them  kept  up  a  lengthy 
correspondence  with  friends  in  Springdale  up  to  the  hour  of 
the  tragedy  which  gave  them  a  place  in  history.  Certainly, 
Brown  could  not  complain  of  the  spirit  of  his  followers,  when 
he  rejoined  them.  Stevens  wrote  to  his  sister  on  April  8:  "I 
am  ready  to  give  up  my  life  for  the  oppressed  if  need  be.  I 
hope  I  shall  have  your  good  will  and  sympathy  in  this  glortous 
cause."  "  Leeman  rejoiced  that  he  was  "warring with  slav- 
ery the  greatest  Curse  that  ever  infested  America."  Richard 
Realf's  and  John  E.  Cook's  letters  are  in  a  similar  strain.  ' 

Leaving  Springdale  with  nine  of  the  men,  shortly  before 
noon  on  the  27th,  Brown  and  his  followers  took  a  three  o'clock 
train  for  West  Liberty,  and  arrived  at  Chicago  at  five  the  next 
morning.  For  breakfast  they  went  to  the  Massasoit  House, 
only  to  be  told  that  one  of  their  number,  the  negro,  Richard 
Richardson,  could  not  be  served  with  them.  True  to  their 
belief  that  all  men  were  created  free  and  equal,  and  to 
their  comradeship,  they  marched  out  of  the  hotel.  Brown  at 
their  head,  and  soon  found  another  hostelry,  the  Adams  House, 
at  which  the  color-line  was  not  drawn. '^  Leaving  Chicago  at 
four-thirty,  the  ten  were  in  Detroit  at  six  o'clock  on  the  morn- 
ing of  Thursday,  April  29,  and  were  breakfasting  at  the  Villa 


330  JOHN  BROWN 

Tavern,  Chatham,  by  nine  o'clock.  "Ten  persons  begin  to 
board  with  Mr.  Barber  29th  April  at  Dinner.  Three  others 
began  May  ist  at  Breakfast,"  Brown's  memorandum-book 
records.  He  himself  made  his  headquarters  with  James  M. 
Bell,  a  colored  man.  "Here,"  wrote  Richard  Realf  to  Dr. 
H.  C.  Gill  at  Springdale," 

"we  intend  to  remain  till  we  have  perfected  our  plans,  which  will 
be  in  about  ten  days  or  two  weeks,  after  which  we  start  for  China. 
Yesterday  and  this  morning  we  have  been  very  busy  in  writing  to 
Gerrit  Smith  and  Wendell  Phillips  and  others  of  like  kin  to  meet 
us  in  this  place  on  Saturday,  the  8th  of  May,  to  adopt  our  Constitu- 
tion, decide  a  few  matters  and  bid  us  goodbye.  Then  we  start.  .  .  . 
The  signals  and  mode  of  writing  are  (the  old  man  informs  me)  all 
arranged.  .  .  .  Remember  me  to  all  who  know  our  business,  but  to 
all  others  be  as  dumb  as  death." 

Despite  Brown's  admonition  to  his  men  to  write  no  letters 
while  here,  John  E.  Cook  was  another  who  corresponded 
freely  with  friends  in  Springdale;  to  two  young  women  he 
observed  ^*  that  only  one  thing  kept  him 

"  from  being  absolutely  unhappy,  and  that  is  the  consciousness  that 
I  am  in  the  path  of  duty.  I  long  for  the  lOth  of  May  to  come.  I  am 
anxious  to  leave  this  place,  to  have  my  mind  occupied  with  the  great 
work  of  our  mission.  .  .  .  Through  the  dark  gloom  of  the  future  I 
fancy  I  can  almost  see  the  dawning  light  of  Freedom ;  .  .  .  that  I 
can  almost  hear  the  swelling  anthem  of  Liberty  rising  from  the  mil- 
lions who  have  but  just  cast  aside  the  fetters  and  the  shackles  that 
bound  them.  But  ere  that  day  arrives,  I  fear  that  we  shall  hear  the 
crash  of  the  battle  shock  and  see  the  red  gleaming  of  the  cannon's 
lightning." 

Not  only  were  compromising  letters  of  this  kind  written 
freely  to  friends  and  relations,  but  similar  ones  received  were 
carried  about  by  all  the  men  and  kept  intact  up  to  the  raid 
itself. 

Finally,  the  8th  of  May,  the  day  for  the  opening  of  the 
convention,  arrived.  None  of  the  Eastern  backers  were  pre- 
sent, neither  Wendell  Phillips,  nor  Gerrit  Smith,  nor  F.  B. 
Sanborn,  and  no  white  men  save  Brown's  own  party.  This 
was  now  composed,  besides  himself,  of  Leeman,  Stevens,  Tidd, 
Gill,  Taylor,  Parsons,  Kagi,  Moffet,  Cook,  Realf  and  Owen 
Brown,  —  twelve  in  all.  The  colored  men  were  thirty-four 
in  number,  among  them  Richard    Richardson,    Osborn  P. 


A  CONVENTION   AND  A   POSTPONEMENT    331 

Anderson,  James  H.  Harris,  afterwards  Congressman  from 
North  Carolina  and  Dr.  Delany.  Only  one  of  these  thirty- 
four,  O.  P.  Anderson,  actually  reached  the  firing-line.  The 
presiding  officer  was  William  Charles  Munroe,  pastor  of  a 
Detroit  colored  church,  and  the  secretary  was  John  H.  Kagi." 
There  were  really  two  distinct  conventions.  The  first,  a  "  Pro- 
visional Constitutional  Convention,"  met  on  Saturday,  May  8, 
at  ten  in  the  morning,  in  a  frame  school-building  on  Princess 
Street,  the  remaining  sessions  being  held  in  the  First  Baptist 
Church  and  in  "  No.  3  Engine  House,"  which  had  been  erected 
by  some  colored  men,  who  also  formed  the  fire-company.  In 
order  to  mislead  any  one  who  might  inquire  the  meaning  of 
these  assemblages,  it  was  stated  that  they  were  for  the  pur- 
pose of  organizing  a  Masonic  lodge  among  the  colored  people. 
After  the  election  of  officers,  on  motion  of  Dr.  Delany,  John 
Brown  arose  to  state  at  length  the  object  of  the  permanent 
convention  and  the  plan  of  action  to  follow  it.  Dr.  Delany 
and  others  spoke  in  favor  of  both  projects,  and  they  were 
agreed  to  by  general  assent. 

In  his  testimony  before  the  Mason  Committee,  early  in 
i860,  Richard  Realf  thus  set  forth  the  substance  of  the  leader's 
speech :  ^' 

"  John  Brown,  on  rising,  stated  that  for  twenty  or  thirty  years  the 
idea  had  possessed  him  like  a  passion  of  giving  liberty  to  the  slaves. 
He  stated  immediately  thereafter,  that  he  made  a  journey  to  Eng- 
land in  1 85 1,  in  which  year  he  took  to  the  international  exhibition 
at  London,  samples  of  wool  from  Ohio,  during  which  period  he  made 
a  tour  upon  the  European  continent,  inspecting  all  fortifications, 
and  especially  all  earth-work  forts  which  he  could  find,  with  a  view, 
as  he  stated,  of  applying  the  knowledge  thus  gained,  with  modifica- 
tions and  inventions  of  his  own,  to  such  a  mountain  warfare  as  he 
thereafter  spoke  upon  in  the  United  States.  John  Brown  stated, 
moreover,  that  he  had  not  been  indebted  to  anybody  for  the  sug- 
gestion of  that  plan ;  that  it  arose  spontaneously  in  his'  own  mind ; 
that  through  a  series  of  from  twenty  to  thirty  years  it  had  gradually 
formed  and  developed  itself  into  shape  and  plan." 

After  telling  of  his  studies  of  Roman  warfare,  of  the  success- 
ful opposition  to  the  Romans  of  the  Spanish  chieftains,  of  the 
successes  of  Schamyl,  the  Circassian  chief,  and  of  Toussaint 
L'Ouverture  in  Hayti,  and  of  his  own  familiarity  with  Haytian 
conditions.  Brown  spoke  of  his  belief  that, 


332  JOHN   BROWN 

"upon  the  first  intimation  of  a  plan  formed  for  the  liberation  of 
the  slaves,  they  would  immediately  rise  all  over  the  Southern 
States.  lib  uuppu^ud-  that  they  would  come  into  the  mountains  to 
join  him,  -whecei  he  jpeoyoaedrtg-wgfk,  and  that  by  flocking  to  his 
standard  they  would  enable  him  (by  making  the  line  of  mountains 
which  cuts  diagonally  through  Maryland  and  Virginia  down  through 
the  Southern  States  into  Tennessee  and  Alabama,  the  base  of  his 
operations)  to  act  upon  the  plantations  on  the  plains  lying  on  each 
side  of  that  range  of  mountains,  and  thai  we  should  be  ablo  to  os- 
tabUsb-ewacl'VCB  in  the  fastnesses,  and  if  any  hostile  action  (as 
would  be)  were  taken  against  us,  either  by  the  militia  of  the  separate 
States  or  by  the  armies  of  the  United  States,  we  purposed  to  defeat 
first  the  militia, and  next,  if  it  were  possible,  the  troops  of  the  United 
States,  and  then  organize  the  freed  blacks  under  this  provisional 
constitution,  whioh -would- carve  o«l-fm'  the  luralilji  r.if  iiu  jutis- 
diction-aU-that-fnountainous  region  in  whioh-  the  blacks' •  irei  »■  to 
bfe-eatablished-^and  in  whieh-they  were  Lu  Uti  taught  Llie  uatfi*}  -and 
raeeliafweal-  arts;  and-ttr-fae  iustnictetUn  atl  the  bustnesff-of-hft. 
Schools  were  also  to-be-estat^i^edr  and  so  on.  Thaf-was-it.  .  .  . 
The  negroes  were  to  constitute  the  soldiers.  John  Brown  expected 
that  all  the  free  negroes  in  the  Northern  States  would  immediately 
flock  to  his  standard.  He  expected  that  all  the  slaves  in  the  South- 
ern States  would  do  the  same.  He  believed,  too,  that  as  many  of  the 
free  negroes  in  Canada  as  could  accompany  him,  would  do  so.  .  .  . 
The  slaveholders  were  to  be  taken  as  hostages,  if  they  refused  to  let 
their  slaves  go.  It  io'  a^wotake  to  gu{?p85eJ  that"lllti"yweie"Hj  be 
•jrilted-^  drey^wefe-not  to  be.  They  were  to  be  held  as  hostages  for 
the  safe  treatment  of  any  prisoners  of  John  Brown's  who  might  fall 
into  the  hands  of  hostile  parties.  .  .  .  All  the  non-slaveholders 
were  to  be  protected.  Those  who  would-not  juiu  lln;'uiganii.uliui>  of 
J«ba-Brevw)-,-blIl  wllU"WOUld  HOT  Of>pdse  it,  were'tu 'bu  piutetltd; 
but  those  w4tp  did  t^ppwst:  it-,"trere'tu  be-tretrted  jo,  'llie'blUVtiholders 
thamsflii.^>s.  .  .  .  -Thwa,  Jelwi  ■Diuwn'baM "Lfrai'he  beKevedt  a-»*M-_ 
Ge5a£ulincui:6ioa.4:»»ld  W-maderl4rat'  it  could-  be  successfully  ntain- 
itam»d ;  that  thg  seV'^al  slave  States  could  be  forced,  (from  the  posi- 
tion in  which^hey /ound  themselyǤ)  to,  recogni^S  tae  freedom  of 
those  wh^Hiad  beyfen  slaves  within  the  respective  limits  ofychose 
Statesj^^hat  immediately  sjKfn  recognition^  were  made,/Th/n  the 
placeeof  all  the  oncers  fleeted  under  tlji*  provisionalx^^onstitutmn 
becmne  vacant,  aridj*e1Jv  elections  were  to  be  mades'^oreovepf^o 
salaries  were  to  be  paid  to  the  office-holders  under  this  constitution. 
It  was  purely  out  of  that  which  we  supposed  to  be  philanthropy  — 
love  for  the  slave." 

After  this  address,  John  Brown  presented  a  plan  of  organ- 
ization, entitled  "Provisional  Constitution  and  Ordinances 
for  the  People  of  the  United  States,"  and  moved  the  read- 


A   CONVENTION   AND   A   POSTPONEMENT    333 

ing  of  it.  To  this  there  was  objection  until  an  oath  of  se- 
crecy was  taken  by  each  member  of  the  convention.  An  oath 
being  moved,  John  Brown  arose  and  informed  the  convention 
that  he  had  conscientious  scruples  about  taking  any  oath; 
that  all  he  desired  was  a  promise  that  any  person  who  there- 
after divulged  any  of  the  proceedings  "agreed  to  forfeit  the 
protection  which  that  organization  could  extend  over  him." 
Nevertheless,  the  oath  was  voted  and  the  president  adminis- 
tered the  obligation.  Thereupon  the  proposed  Constitution 
was  read,  and  after  debate  on  one  article,  the  forty-sixth,  it 
was  unanimously  adopted.  The  afternoon  session  was  brief, 
being  occupied  solely  with  signing  the  Constitution,  "con- 
gratulatory remarks"  by  Dr.  Delany  and  Thomas  M.  Kin- 
nard  and  final  adjournment.  At  the  evening  session  the  con- 
vention was  a  new  body,  —  that  called  by  the  Constitution 
adopted  by  the  "Provisional  Convention,"  "for  the  purpose 
of  electing  officers  to  fill  the  offices  specially  established  and 
named  by  said  Constitution."  With  the  same  officers,  the 
new  convention  appointed  a  committee  to  make  nominations. 
Upon  its  failing  to  do  so  promptly,  the  convention  itself 
elected  John  Brown  Commander-in-Chief,  and  John  H.  Kagi, 
Secretary  of  War.  On  Monday,  May  10,  the  balloting  was 
resumed.  Realf  was  made  Secretary  of  State,  George  B.  Gill, 
Secretary  of  the  Treasury,  Owen  Brown,  Treasurer,  and 
Osborn  P.  Anderson  and  Alfred  M.  Ellsworth,  members  of 
Congress.  After  the  position  of  President  had  been  declined 
by  or  for  two  colored  men,  the  filling  of  this  and  other  vacan- 
cies was  left  to  a  committee  of  fifteen,  headed  by  John  Brown. 
It  is  not  of  record,  however,  that  the  vacancies  were  ever 
filled. 

If,  after  a  lapse  of  fifty  years,  it  seems  at  first  as  if  the  Con- 
stitution and  the  entire  proceeding  belonged  to  the  domain 
of  the  mock  Springdale  legislature,  the  earnestness  and  seri- 
ousness of  the  Chatham  proceedings  cannot  be  denied,  so  far 
as  the  moving  spirits  were  concerned.  Some  of  the  men  doubt- 
less signed  without  much  consideration;  but  to  the  colored 
men,  at  least,  it  seemed  as  if  freedom  from  bondage  were 
really  in  sight  for  their  enslaved  brethren.  Since  Brown  was 
able  to  overrule  the  objections  of  practical  men  like  Gerrit 
Smith  and  George  L.  Stearns,  it  is,  of  course,  not  to  be  won- 


334  JOHN  BROWN 

dered  at  if  the  little  gathering  in  Chatham  accepted  at  its  face 
value  the  extraordinary  document  which  John  Brown  laid 
before  them.  They  could  but  applaud  the  admirably  written 
preamble : " 

"Whereas,  Slavery,  throughout  its  entire  existence  in  the  United 
States  is  none  other  than  a  most  barbarous,  unprovoked,  and 
unjustifiable  War  of  one  portion  of  its  citizens  upon  another  por- 
tion ;  the  only  conditions  of  which  are  perpetual  imprisonment,  and 
hopeless  servitude  or  absolute  extermination;  in  utter  disregard 
and  violation  of  those  eternal  and  self-evident  truths  set  forth  in 
our  Declaration  of  Independence:  Therefore,  we  CITIZENS oi  the 
UNITED  STATES,  and  the  OPPRESSED  PEOPLE,  who,  by 
a  RECENT  DECISION  of  the  SUPREME  COURT  ARE  DE- 
CLARED to  have  NO  RIGHTS  WHICH  the  WHITE  MAN  is 
BOUND  to  RESPECT;  TOGETHER  WITH  ALL  OTHER 
PEOPLE  DEGRADED  by  the  LAWS  THEREOF,  DO,  for 
the  TIME  BEING  ORDAIN  and  ESTABLISH  for  OUR- 
SELVES the  FOLLOWING  PROVISIONAL  CONSTITUTION 
and  ORDINANCES,  the  BETTER  to  PROTECT  our  PER- 
SONS, PROPERTY,  LIVES,  and  LIBERTIES:  and  to  GOVERN 
our  ACTIONS." 

This  statement,  in  its  definition  of  slavery  as  war,  is  the  key- 
note to  Brown's  philosophy,  and  explains  better  than  anything 
else  why  it  was  consistent  with  his  devout  religious  charac- 
ter for  him  to  kill,  and  to  plunder  for  supplies  in  Kansas,  and 
to  take  up  arms  against  slavery  itself.  There  was  for  him  no 
such  thing  as  peace  so  long  as  there  were  chains  upon  a  single 
slave;  and  he  was,  therefore,  at  liberty  to  plot  and  intrigue,  to 
prepare  for  hostilities,  without  regard  to  public  order  or  the 
civil  laws.  Passing  beyond  the  preamble,  the  Constitution  * 
suggests  the  word  "insane,"  which  the  historian  Von  Hoist 
applies  to  certain  of  its  provisions.  It  actually  contemplates 
not  merely  the  government  of  forces  in  armed  insurrection 
against  sovereign  States  and  opposed  to  the  armies  of  the 
United  States,  but  actually  goes  so  far  as  to  establish  courts, 
a  regular  judiciary  and  a  Congress.  As  if  that  were  not 
enough,  it  provides  for  schools  for  that  same  training  of  the 
freed  slaves  in  manual  labor  which  is  to-day  so  widely  hailed 
as  the  readiest  solution  of  the  negro  problem.  Churches,  too, 
were  to  be  "established  as  soon  as  may  be,"  —  as  if  anything 

*  See  Appendix. 


A   CONVENTION   AND   A   POSTPONEMENT    335 

could  be  more  inconsistent  with  the  fundamental  plan  of 
breaking  the  forces  up  into  small  bands  hidden  in  mountain 
fastnesses,  subsisting  as  well  as  possible  off  the  land,  and  prob- 
ably unable  to  communicate  with  one  another.  At  this  and 
at  other  points  the  whole  scheme  forbids  discussion  as  a  prac- 
tical plan  of  government  for  such  an  uprising  as  was  to  be  car- 
ried out  by  a  handful  of  whites  and  droves  of  utterly  illiterate 
and  ignorant  blacks.  As  has  already  been  said,  it  is  still  a 
chief  indictment  of  Brown's  saneness  of  judgment  and  his 
reasoning  powers.  Von  Hoist,  one  of  his  greatest  admirers, 
describes  it  as  a  "piece  of  insanity,  in  the  literal  sense  of  the 
word,"  and  a  "confused  medley  of  absurd,  because  absolutely 
inapplicable,  forms."  ^*  Yet  no  one  can  deny  that  in  many  of 
its  articles  the  Brown  Constitution  is  admirable  in  spirit,  as, 
for  instance,  in  the  provisions  for  the  enforcement  of  morality 
and  for  the  humanitarian  treatment  of  prisoners,  as  well  as  in 
other  measures  well  adapted  to  the  undertaking.  As  a  chart 
for  the  course  of  a  State  about  to  secede  from  the  Union  and 
to  maintain  itself  during  a  regular  revolution,  the  document 
was  also  not  without  its  admirable  features.  It  is  impossible, 
however,  as  regards  this  extraordinary  Constitution,  to  forget 
that  it  was  drawn  for  the  use  of  possibly  fifty  white  men  and 
hordes  of  escaping  slaves  fighting  for  their  lives,  not  on  the 
open  prairies  of  Kansas,  or  among  its  scattered  hamlets,  but 
in  well-populated  and  well-settled  portions  of  the  South. 

The  Constitution  simply  emphasizes  anew  Brown's  belief 
that  he  really  could  engage  in  warfare  against  slavery,  and 
could  keep  at  bay  the  United  States  army  while  doing  so ;  that 
with  a  handful  of  men  and  a  few  hundred  guns  and  mediaeval 
pikes,  he  could  grapple  and  shake  to  its  foundations  an  insti- 
tution the  actual  uprooting  of  which  nearly  cost  the  United 
States  Government  its  existence,  and  necessitated  the  sacrific- 
ing of  vast  treasure  and  an  enormous  number  of  human  lives. 
Brown  was  careful  even  to  provide  that  no  treaty  of  peace — 
presumably  either  with  the  United  States  or  the  several  South- 
ern States  —  could  be  ratified  save  by  his  President,  his 
Vice-President,  a  majority  of  his  Congress  and  of  his  Supreme 
Court,  and  of  the  general  officers  of  the  army;  that  is,  his  half- 
company  of  officers  was  to  be  considered  equal  as  a  treaty- 
making  power  with  a  great  nation  and  its  coordinate  parts !  It 


336  JOHN  BROWN 

is  best,  therefore,  not  to  attempt  to  analyze  the  Chatham  Con- 
stitution, but  to  admire  its  wording  and  its  composition,  and 
lay  it  aside  as  a  temporary  aberration  of  a  mind  that  in  its  other 
manifestations  defies  successful  classification  as  unhinged  or 
altogether  unbalanced.  Fanatical,  Brown's  mind  was ;  concen- 
trated on  one  idea  to  the  danger-point,  most  alienists  would 
probably  agree;  but  still  it  remained  a  mind  capable  of  ex- 
pressing itself  with  rare  clearness  and  force,  focussing  itself 
with  intense  vigor  on  the  business  in  hand,  and  going  straight 
to  the  end  in  view.